The Guardian has recently reported that there could now be over a 216,000 empty residential properties in the UK. According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the number of long-term vacant properties – those empty for at least six months – rose by 5.3% to 216,186 in the 12 months to October. It is the highest level since 2012. It is thought that one in seven property owners in the UK leave their property empty for more than one month at a time. And that means that many properties will require Unoccupied Property Insurance at some point.
What is the definition of an Unoccupied Property?
The definition of an Unoccupied Property varies between Insurers. In general, however, a property is Unoccupied if it has not been lived in overnight for a period of time. This is normally 30 or 60 days, or if the property is inadequately furnished for normal habitation.
Why might a property become Unoccupied?
Properties can become unoccupied for a number of reasons. An elderly homeowner may move into care without selling his or her property. A home may be bequeathed to relatives of the deceased homeowner but a family dispute means it lies empty. The occupier might be away for an extended period for work or on holiday. Properties are also often unoccupied if extensive building work is being carried out.
Many unoccupied properties are also second homes, which have either been bought as rental properties or inherited. Buy-to-let properties may be empty because of ‘voids’ between tenants, or while undergoing renovation, and holiday homes may be vacant in the winter months.
What to do if your property becomes Unoccupied
Properties which are unoccupied carry greater risks in terms of burglary, vandalism, theft and fire. And the amount of damage caused by unnoticed issues, such as burst pipes, can also be worsened – whereas in an occupied property it would be spotted much more quickly.
Your Insurer needs to know that your property is unoccupied so they can factor these increased risks into your policy terms.
As with any insurance policy, the cover is based on the information you’ve given your provider. So if it’s incorrect there is a risk that your policy could be cancelled or that any claims could be rejected.
Maintaining the property
Most unoccupied policies will require that the property meets a certain level of repair on the outside, so as to not advertise that it is unoccupied – front gardens should be well kept, the condition of the paint and walls should not appear decrepit and the windows should not be boarded.
A key condition that is standard on most unoccupied policies is that the property must be visited once every seven days. The person visiting the property does not need be the policy holder or owner, but can be a friend, relative or managing agency. The main reason for this is so that any criminal damage does not go unreported and any issues with the house, such as water leaks or damage from a storm does not remain unrepaired, causing unnecessary further damage. A record of visits should be kept for good order, and may be requested in the event of a claim.
Unoccupied properties are more susceptible to criminal damage, break-ins and squatters. Most insurers recommend the following:
- Key-operated devices on all opening windows and skylights
- Approved lock or mortice deadlocks of at least five levers or that conform to BS3651
- A rim automatic dead latch with a key locking handle on the inside
We are Experienced Insurance Brokers, with offices in Essex and Suffolk, and can help ensure you have the right level of cover.
If you would like us to talk you through Unoccupied Property Insurance please get in touch with us. We can offer a no-obligation quote too. You can contact us:
- Through our Live Chat
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