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Unoccupied House Insurance
A house that is left unoccupied will not normally be covered by a standard house insurance policy.
There are many reasons why a house may be left vacant. Perhaps the owner has been taken into care or is deceased. The house might be derelict. Maybe its a buy to let investment property that is vacant or perhaps the owners have gone away for an extended period leaving the house empty. It could be a second home or holiday home. Maybe the empty house is for sale or undergoing repairs, renovation or an extension. Whatever the case, its vital to make sure that the empty property has sufficient insurance cover.
Standard house insurance quotes will allow for a house being left empty for a specified number of days; check the policy schedule for the exact number of days a property may be left vacant. Beyond this time limit the empty house may not be insured at all. Of course its the responsibility of the homeowner to make sure that they have adequate insurance cover at all times, and especially when the house is left unoccupied.
If the property is to be left empty for longer than the specified period of time it may be necessary to arrange specialist unoccupied house insurance. If the period of time during which the building will be unoccupied is only slightly greater than the specified time limit, it is worth contacting the insurer beforehand to see if an agreement can be made. The insurance company may agree to extend the period during which the house can be left empty subject to certain provisos. The insurer may require for instance a high standard of security; the turning off of mains water, gas and electricity supplies to the property; and, regular visits to check on the property.
For buy to let properties specialist landlord insurance policies will allow for a longer period of unoccupancy, useful to cover periods when the property is likely to be left empty, for example between tenants. A specialist home insurance policy is usually a condition of any buy to let mortgage application. Such policies, as well as providing cover for periods of unoccupancy, can also be arranged to provide cover for periods of lost rental income.
Dedicated policies can also be found for second home insurance and holiday home insurance. These will usually offer not only buildings insurance but also contents cover up to a specified amount. This is useful since in general unoccupied home insurance does not include cover for contents.
Unoccupied house insurance is usually for buildings cover only, and does not include contents cover. Vacant property insurers offer buildings insurance policies that will include cover for the fabric of the house, including the fixtures and fittings. These specialist policies may also include cover for any white goods up to a certain specified amount, even when the house is left empty. Insuring an unoccupied property is always subject to important provisos. These may include specific security standards; regular checks of the property insured; and, the turning off of mains water, gas and electricity supplies.
Contents insurance cover for empty, vacant or unoccupied houses can be arranged, though obviously at a higher premium; a cost which should be weighed against the alternative cost of putting contents into a storage facility.
As ever it is very important to read and understand the list of exclusions and limitations listed in the unoccupied insurance policy document. In order for insurance cover for the empty property to be valid the insurer generally insists on very specific provisions such as:
- The scheduling of regular inspections to ensure that the house and gardens are maintained to a suitable standard and that all newspapers, mail and flyers are removed.
- Mains gas, electricity and water supplies must be turned off. However, during the winter months, the insurer may require either that the central heating and all water pipes are drained or else used to maintain the temperature of the house at a minimum level to prevent burst pipes.
- The fitting and use of specified security devices. On the front and all other external doors a lock approved to BS3621. A key-operated internal patio door lock mounted on the centre rail. Key-operated security devices to all opening windows and skylights.