What happens to your home or any other property you may own when it has to be left empty and unoccupied for any length of time, and do you need empty property insurance?
In the first instance, the property is likely to become a magnet for all manner of unwanted attention – from the likes of vandals, squatters or even arsonists. Added to this is the risk of an apparently minor maintenance problem escalating into a major incident if no one is on hand to tackle the problem at source or to raise the alarm.
These are the heightened risks faced by any kind of vacant property and they have a major bearing on the insurance implications for such buildings. The majority of insurers, for instance, are likely to limit, restrict or remove altogether the cover on any building which has been continuously unoccupied for between 45 and 60 days (the precise duration may vary from one insurer to another of course).
It is just that limitation of the insurance which normally covers your occupied property that makes empty property insurance so critical. Its effect it to restore the level of insurance security and protection which your property needs during such times and the level of cover you arrange may be tailored to suit the particular circumstances – from basic to more comprehensive cover, for example.
An illustration of the nature and scope of such empty property insurance is given in a guide we have published here at GSI Insurance.
Reasons for the property being empty
There are any number of reasons why your property may be left temporarily empty and unoccupied:
- it might be undergoing refurbishment, remodelling or redecoration and is unsuitable for habitation or use during those works;
- you might be working away for some time, and need to leave your home unoccupied for a while;
- you may be moving into a new home and your previous residence is empty pending its sale;
- if you own buy to let property, a void may have been created by one set of tenants leaving and your having to wait until a new tenancy is arranged; or
- you might have inherited a property, which lies empty until you decide its future fate.
Managing the vacancy
Even though you have taken the precaution of arranging specialist unoccupied property insurance, you still owe your insurers the duty of minimising and mitigating some of the risks – failure to do so might result in difficulties in your pursuing any claim or the insurer reaching the conclusion that your contributory negligence is responsible for a proportion of the loss or damage.
One of the “managed solutions” suggested by the website Croner, is to maintain and keep up all appearances of the property still being occupied and in use even when it is left empty.
In the case of your own home, for instance, this might include putting strategically positioned lights throughout the house on timer switches or by encouraging a neighbour to park their car on your driveway from time to time, to give the appearance that someone is at home.
Things which might act as a complete giveaway – such as an obviously untended garden or deliveries left for days on the doorstep – are of course to be avoided.