Anyone who owns property that is to be left empty and unoccupied for longer than a month or so is likely to need unoccupied property insurance.
This is a state of affairs that might be experienced for a number of reasons – shared by home owner occupiers, landlords or residential property and investors in commercial property:
- you might be taking an extended holiday away from home, for example – a gap year or to visit friends or relations in far-flung places;
- perhaps work has taken you away from home on a contract lasting several months or more;
- if you are moving home, you might already have moved into your new residence but leave the former house empty whilst awaiting its sale;
- you might be building an extension or having extensive remodelling done to your home – or your let property if you are a landlord – and no one is able to live there whilst the works are in progress;
- your let property might be left empty for longer than usual if you have difficulty finding replacement tenants after previous ones have quit; or
- you might have an interest in a property that is subject to probate and remains unoccupied until its long-term future is decided.
There are a number of different people who, for a number of different reasons might therefore need unoccupied property insurance.
But why is it needed?
Whether you have standard home insurance or landlord insurance for residential or commercial property, you are almost certain to find that the insurer severely limits, or regards the cover to have lapsed altogether once the premises have been left empty and unoccupied for longer than around 30 to 60 consecutive days (the exact number vary from one insurer to another depending on their policies with respect to unoccupied property risks).
This is the typical insurer’s response to the statistically higher risk of loss or damage suffered by an empty property, compared to one that is lived in or in use on a more or less continuous basis.
Property security company Orbis and property managers the VPS Group warn that:
- unoccupied buildings are at heightened risk from fire, criminal activity and general deterioration – causing a serious loss of reputation to occupiers of commercial premises and strained relations with the neighbours of any kind of empty property;
- arson, they point out, is responsible for about half of all fire in unoccupied and commercial premises;
- in addition, there are any number of otherwise minor incidents, which may develop into full-blown emergencies if there is no one on the premises to raise the alarm or arrange immediate assistance – a dripping tap, for instance, might eventually flood a property, or an electrical fault spark a major fire.
What does unoccupied property insurance cover?
Despite the increased risks, your property still needs to be safeguarded of course. This is achieved with the unoccupied property insurance policies we arrange here at GSI Insurance.
What it does – by way of an entirely separate policy – is to restore the home insurance, landlord insurance or commercial property insurance which is likely to have become insufficient or non-existent when the premises have been left empty for longer than a month or so.
Policies may often be flexible in their scope and cover, so that you may choose to maintain a comprehensive level of insurance or arrange a more basic form of cover if the premises have been largely emptied of valuable contents.
One especially important feature of unoccupied property insurance is the protection it typically restores against public or property owner’s liability claims. Even though neither you nor any tenants may be in residence, and the building is not in continuous use, you still owe a duty of care to ensure that no visitors to the property (including those who might have gained access illegally, your neighbours, or members of the public suffer any injury or have their own property damaged.
Unoccupied property insurance is designed to ensure that you continue to have indemnity against such claims.
Further reading: Guide to unoccupied property.