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Home insurance for an unoccupied property

How to keep your home insured when it's left unoccupied

A man with a suitcase standing outside his front door

Planning a six-month trip around the world or moving out to refurbish your home? You'll need to let your 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.

But with 200,000 homes empty for more than six months in 2015, that's an awful lot of unoccupied properties at risk of fire, flood and theft.

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 require you to leave the heating on if you leave it unoccupied for several days during the 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.

Make the call

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 on his 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.

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 and keeping an eye on the property.

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 an expensive asset, so it makes sense to make sure it's secure whether you're there or not.

When you go away for months at a time, insurance companies believe the risk of damage to your property increases.

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 property cover in place

Before you leave your home unoccupied, make a call to your current home insurers 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 homes insurance.

If you want unoccupied insurance cover for a property that isn't your main home then you may also need specialist insurance. For example, landlord's 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.

Before you leave your home unoccupied make a call to your home insurers to let them know.

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. We also provide a useful checklist that tells you what to do if you've been burgled.

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