How to keep your home insured when it's left unoccupied.
Planning a six-month trip around the world or moving out to refurbish your home? You'll need to let your home insurer know if you're leaving your property unoccupied for a long time.
Check your home insurance details
There are many legitimate reasons why homes stand empty for long periods of time. Maybe you're waiting for a sale to go through, a parent has moved to a care home or you've taken a job overseas for a while.
Most standard home insurance policies won't provide cover if you leave a property unoccupied for more than 30 days in a row. Or they'll have special terms, like require you to leave the heating on, if you leave it empty during winter.
Some insurers, like us, will cover you if you're away for 60 days in a row, but to be on the safe side, you should check your home insurance details if your property is unoccupied for more than a month.
Check with your insurer if they cover unoccupied properties
Simon is a contractor who works on wind turbine projects. His job takes him around the world for weeks at a time. However, during his last project he was asked to stay on for four months as the project was proving particularly challenging. Now Simon loves a challenge, so he accepted immediately.
It was only later when he got chatting to a mate about the project that the subject of his house came up. His friend reminded him to check the small print regarding unoccupied home insurance and sure enough, he found he wouldn't be covered if he left the house unoccupied for six months.
Fortunately, Simon made the call to the insurers to let them know he was going to be away. They offered to cover the unoccupancy for a small additional fee.
So, what would LV= do?
Well, if Simon was an LV=customer, he'd need to let us know that his property is going to be unoccupied for more than 60 days. Once we know that, we’d advise Simon to make sure that any locks and/or alarms are in good working order and used at all times.
We’d continue to cover Simon’s home while it’s unoccupied and would also confirm this in his documents with the requirements needed to maintain cover for events such as escape of water, theft and vandalism (as long as Simon has told us and has paid the relevant premium).
We would also recommend that someone checks Simon’s property weekly and removes any refuse, newspapers and junk mail. Once the property is occupied again, Simon would need to let us know.
If Simon didn’t tell us the property was going to be unoccupied, the above wouldn’t be covered.
What are the risks of leaving a property unoccupied?
Well, you probably have buildings insurance already in place for flood, fire and vandalism. In fact, your mortgage company often insist on it. And that’s when you're actually living in the house.
When you go away for months at a time, insurance companies believe the risk of damage to your property increases. There's no one visiting the property regularly to make sure the pipes don't freeze or the electrics don't short.
About 60% of burglaries happen when there is nobody at home. So when your property is unoccupied for weeks at a time, it becomes an easy target for burglars who won't be disturbed if they break in. All the lovely things in your home could be open to vandalism or theft.
Your property is your home, so it makes sense to make sure it's secure whether you're there or not.
How to make sure your property is secure
If you're away from your home and leaving it unoccupied for many months, or if like Simon you're away for long periods of time regularly, you may want to think about additional security.
- Fit doors and windows with quality locks
- Install an alarm system to deter burglars
- Invest in a smart home security system or CCTV
- Ask a trusted neighbour or a friend to keep an eye on your home
Although prevention is better than cure, there's no substitute for making sure you have the right insurance cover in place in case you need to make a claim.
Put unoccupied home insurance cover in place
Before you leave your home unoccupied, make a call to your current home insurer to let them know.
Some insurers will provide full temporary cover for an additional cost or offer reduced cover for the same cost. If your usual home insurer can't help, there are specialist companies who offer long-term unoccupied home insurance.
If you want unoccupied home insurance cover for a property that isn't your main home then you may also need specialist insurance. For example, landlord insurance is quite different to standard home insurance. Second homes and properties used as holiday rentals may also not be fully covered by your usual home insurance.
Making a claim
Making a claim for damage to your property or theft whilst you're away needn't be tricky. Firstly, call your insurer in the usual way. Have your policy number and a copy of your insurance documents to hand - remember to pack them when you leave home.
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