Do I have to have unoccupied home insurance?
If you have a mortgage on your property, then typically it will be obligatory that you have appropriate buildings insurance. Legal requirement or not, though, it is simple to illustrate why it might be the prudent choice, potentially saving you many thousands – even hundreds of thousands – of pounds worth of losses if your home suffers a major incident.
When might it be prudent to buy it?
Unoccupied property insurance is likely to provide the safeguard you need when leaving your home for any reason – an extended holiday, perhaps – for any time longer than a month or so.
So, why does it become necessary then?
In the normal course of events, the home in which you are living is protected by standard building and contents home insurance.
If you examine the terms and conditions of this policy more carefully, you are likely to find that the cover becomes restricted – the common, but serious risks of malicious damage, water damage or theft may be excluded, explains a handbook published by the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
These restrictions and exclusions are likely to come into effect once your home has been unoccupied for longer than, say, 30 to 60 consecutive days, depending on your chosen insurer, who might even regard the insurance cover to have lapsed altogether after you have been away for this period of time.
Unoccupied property insurance is a standalone alternative which restores the protection your home needs when you are no longer in residence.
Why does that happen?
Insurers – including your existing home insurance company – are concerned first and foremost about risk.
They take the view – which is substantiated by all the evidence – that an unoccupied property is considerably more vulnerable to risks than one which is in more or less continuous occupation, because:
- when your home is unoccupied, it is likely to attract the likes of burglars, vandals, squatters and even arsonists – a story in the Daily Record newspaper on the 1st of February 2017, revealed that arson attacks in empty property was responsible for a spike in fires across parts of Scotland; and
- when there is no one at home to spot the problem, an otherwise quite minor maintenance job, such as fixing a dripping tap, might quickly escalate and end up flooding your home.
Do I still need to take precautions to secure my home?
Yes, you do. As with any kind of insurance, you are expected to take responsibility for mitigating the risks of loss or damage to every reasonable extent.
Safeguards might include:
- arranging regular inspections of your home – by neighbours, friends or relatives, let’s say;
- paying closer attention to the already-fitted locks and bolts on doors and windows;
- making sure that any deliveries you have been unable to cancel are taken promptly indoors – by a friendly neighbour for example;
- asking that same neighbour to park his or her car in your driveway from time to time, to give the impression that there’s someone at home – you can thank them by buying some duty free on your way home;
- using timer-switches to come on in strategically situated rooms when it gets dark; and
- keeping the garden and its surroundings well maintained, with the grass cut and hedges trimmed.
These are just some of the safety precautions your provider of unoccupied property insurance might expect you to take.
Further reading: Unoccupied Property Guide