One of the great ironies of our times is that, in the midst of a widespread housing crisis, an estimated 1 million homes remain empty in the UK, according to a report by Empty Homes at the end of 2018.
But less than a third of these are classified as “long term empty”, said the Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) in October of that year, so what of the remaining majority of empty homes which are temporarily unoccupied?
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions – FAQs – posed by owners of such temporarily vacant property, and their concerns about the need for unoccupied property insurance.
Why are so many homes temporarily unoccupied?
There are many reasons:
- you might have bought an abandoned or “long term empty” home and await the completion of renovations before living in it or letting to tenants;
- you have moved out of a home or let property you already own whilst building works for an extension or other refurbishments are underway;
- you are taking an extended holiday;
- your work commitments take you away from home for several months at a time;
- as the landlord of let property you face a longer than usual interval in finding new tenants after a previous tenancy finishes; or
- you hope to inherit the property but are waiting for probate to be concluded before moving in.
What is the insurance position on such property?
As a prudent owner of your own home or let property, you are almost certain to have considered the importance of home insurance or landlord insurance to protect the building and its contents against loss or damage from a wide range of threats such as fire, flooding, storm damage, impacts, vandalism and theft – together with potential public liabilities in your role as property owner or landlord.
A careful reading of any standard home or let property insurance, however, reveals a clause explaining that if the property is left unoccupied for more than between 30 and 45 consecutive days (the interval varying from one policy to another) cover becomes severely restricted or may even lapse altogether.
Why is cover curtailed in this way?
An empty home is a vulnerable home:
- it tends to attract intruders, squatters, vandals and even arsonists;
- if an otherwise minor maintenance problem arises, it may quickly turn into a major disaster if there is no one at home to raise the alarm – just think of the flooding a constantly dripping tap or leaking fitting may cause.
Because of those increased risks, insurers typically curtail the cover for the building and contents – or regard it as lapsed altogether – once the property has been unoccupied for longer than a month or so.
Unoccupied property insurance
In order to restore the protection you continue to need once your property has been empty for longer than 30-45 consecutive days, therefore, a specialist form of cover, aptly called unoccupied property insurance, is required.
You may find out more about the subject and discover what you need to know when buying it, here.