If you are a landlord and bought the property with the help of a mortgage, your lender is almost certain to have insisted that you keep it adequately insured. If there is no mortgage, you are still likely to have given insurance a high priority in order to protect the significant asset represented by the let property.
This may be all well and good - until the property becomes empty and untenanted for some reason for a period longer than 30-45 consecutive days. After this period, most landlord insurance policies lapse and your building and its contents need to be covered by a separate form of unoccupied property insurance.
Whilst this type of insurance is designed to maintain comprehensive protection for the premises even while they are empty, there are measures that practically any insurer may expect you to take in order to mitigate any losses.
UKinsuranceNET is an expert in arranging insurance for temporarily unoccupied properties, so may want to ask us about the specific conditions that particular insurers may apply. The following, however, are some of the - largely common sense - steps you may take to keep the empty premises safe and secure.
An empty property may prove a veritable magnet for thieves and vandals. It makes sense, therefore, to do everything possible not to advertise the fact that the home is unoccupied. In other words:
- make sure there are curtains or blinds at the windows to give the appearance that someone is at home;
- arrange for any deliveries to be taken promptly indoors and out of sight;
- keep gardens, hedges and any landscaping around the property neatly tended;
- consider the use of time switches to turn on a light or two when it becomes dark;
- advise neighbours that the property is going to be empty and even ask one whether they may care to park their car on your driveway.
A stitch in time
Keeping your property in a good state of repair may become even more important when it is standing empty. What may start out as a relatively minor problem, for instance, might rapidly become a major disaster - the faulty electrical connection, for instance, that starts a full-scale fire, or the dripping pipe that becomes a flood.
Maintenance, in other words, may be seen as an on-going need even - or especially - when the property is empty and there is no one at home to spot the minor faults before they develop into major crises.
Regular inspections of the property - by you, a friend or an agent - may help in this process of detection. At certain times of the year - in winter for example - special care may need to be taken to ensure that all water pipes are properly lagged or insulated to prevent them freezing. You might even want to put the central heating on frost mode to help prevent burst pipes.
Depending on how long you expect the property to remain unoccupied, you - or your insurer - might even want to ensure that the water system is completely drained down.
It might do nothing to actually keep your empty building safe and secure, but exemption from Council Tax may give you a little extra cash to spend on those preventative measures.
Further advice on the exemption from Council Tax may be found on this government website , where it is mentioned, for example, that you may qualify for a discount of up to 50% if the reason for your property being empty is because it is undergoing major repairs or refurbishment.
Whether your empty property qualifies and whether any discount is zero or the maximum 50%, is a matter for your local authority to decide.