Unoccupied property insurance is an area of cover that occasionally catches property owners out and at other times causes confusion.
At UKinsuranceNET we do not believe in jargon and we don't accept that insurance needs to be hugely complicated.
So we have produced here a quick overview of insurance for empty property and related issues.
Why is unoccupied property an issue?
Whether you are an owner-occupier or landlord, your buildings and contents insurance represents an insurer undertaking to take on some of the financial risks inherent in owning a property.
As part of your original application for cover, your insurance provider will have attempted to understand as much about your property and risks as possible. That's in order to make sure that you have appropriate cover in place. The type of policy you have and the price you are paying for it will reflect that understanding.
Anything that might significantly change the insurance provider's view of the position and the risks they are covering must be made clear to them, so that they can ensure that appropriate cover remains in place.
When a property makes the transition from being occupied to unoccupied, its risk profile changes. Unoccupied properties are more vulnerable to things such as unnoticed problems (e.g. damage through leaking pipes) or the attentions of criminals through burglary and vandalism etc.
So, if your property moves into unoccupied status, you need to consider notifying your insurance provider and taking out appropriate additional cover. If you do not, components of your cover may become null and void.
Of course, insurance providers understand that any property might sit unoccupied for short periods of time.
Good examples might be typical holidays or perhaps in the case of landlords, tenant changeovers with some time allowed in between for some cleaning and decorating etc.
That's why a typical standard buildings and contents policy may provide cover for unoccupied properties for up to a specified number of consecutive days (typically 30-45, depending on your insurer). It is only once that period of time has been exceeded that elements of the policy's cover may be at risk and an unoccupied property insurance policy need to be considered.
Planned versus the unexpected
The above overview applies even in situations where your property has moved into unoccupied status due to circumstances that were entirely beyond your control.
A typical example there might be in situations where, as an owner-occupier, you were abroad on business and were required to stay away for longer than you had originally planned.
Another illustration for a landlord might be the perennial problem of building work overrunning and as a result, you being unable to let to new tenants when originally planned.
In these sorts of circumstances, it might be prudent to plan ahead and make some contingency enquiries relating to empty property cover - just in case it becomes clear at the last moment that you are going to need it.
Hopefully the above overview has given you a quick grounding in the basics of insurance cover for unoccupied properties.
We would welcome the opportunity to explain things in more detail to you or to clarify anything in the above that is less than completely clear.