Requirements, Risks and Pitfalls of Insuring Unoccupied Property
There are many reasons a property might be left unoccupied, but this poses additional risks and requirements for insurance.
A property may be vacant perhaps because it is a holiday home, is between tenants, awaiting building works or following the occupant's death or move into residential care. Standard homeowner insurance policies usually cover the property while it is left empty for a maximum of 30 days. After this time, if the property continues to be left empty, cover is likely to be severely restricted. Specific and bespoke policies are available to address some of the potential dangers associated with unoccupied property, but the need for a revised policy is easily missed when a property becomes vacant unexpectedly or the period of unoccupancy is longer than planned.
As well as the higher risks associated with empty property, including theft, vandalism, weather damage and escape of water, there are normally additional conditions of the insurance to comply with. These endorsements should be thoroughly checked, as failure to comply could result in the policy being voided and claims not being covered. This could be a costly exercise.
Typical conditions would be that the property is inspected both internally and externally at least weekly, that the heating system is either drained down and the water turned off, or the heating is left on low, that a minimum standard of locks are fitted and that the exterior gardens are maintained to an acceptable standard. Some of these are common sense to ensure that the property doesn’t 'look' empty. Others are to protect from more specific risks, such as escape of water or frozen pipes.
If you have an unoccupied property, it is strongly advised that you review your insurance policy regularly (and certainly at the point a property becomes vacant) to ensure adequate cover for your needs and to safeguard against the policy being void due to unknown conditions and/or noncompliance with the imposed terms of such a policy.
We also have a related article which may be of interest to unoccupied property owners, in relation to the rising risk of property fraud here.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Michelle Pugh or any other member of the Property team on 0114 267 5588 (Sheffield) or 0113 244 6100 (Leeds)
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The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors.