The simple answer is that unless you have made alternative insurance arrangements, you are almost certainly not covered if the property remains empty and unoccupied for as long as four months. Although different owner-occupier and landlords buildings and contents insurance policies may have different definitions of the maximum length of time which a property may be left vacant, the insurance cover invariably lapses within a month or two (typically 30-45 consecutive days of unoccupancy). This applies even if your property is furnished.
Insurers offering property insurance – together with the banks and mortgage lenders that may be involved in helping you buy your let property – become increasingly nervous the longer a home, let property or commercial premises are left empty with no one occupying them.
Taking into account the considerably increased risks to an empty building, insurers may have good reason to be especially wary:
- relatively minor maintenance issues may become full-scale disasters if there is no one around to spot the problem in the first place;
- empty buildings tend to prove a magnet for thieves, vagrants and vandals;
- insecure doors and windows might present an open invitation – so that, in the words of the Metropolitan Police “An open window could let in more than fresh air”;
- the danger from fire or flooding or burst pipes may become considerably more severe – indeed, the London Fire Brigade, for example, advises the owners and tenants of commercial premises to consider hiring additional security staff and conduct more frequent patrols if a building is to be left unoccupied for any significant length of time.
So, what might I do about insurance cover?
Rather than simply let your standard insurance cover lapse when the property becomes vacant, you might want to ensure that you retain the maximum possible protection for your valuable asset by arranging standalone unoccupied property insurance.