How to maintain an unoccupied home


There are times when you need to leave your home empty. It could be because you are moving but are yet to sell your house, you’re going away on an extended holiday, or you are carrying out major renovation works, which means the property is uninhabitable for a certain period of time.
Whatever the reason, you’ll want to protect your home while you are away. There are a number of ways to do this ranging from installing a state-of-the-art security system to making sure you have specialist unoccupied home insurance.
Here’s your guide to maintaining an unoccupied home so it remains protected.

What is an unoccupied property?

In insurance terms, an unoccupied property is one that is left empty for between 30 to 60 days at a time. So, if you’re wondering how long you can leave your house unoccupied before you need to start thinking about insurance, the answer is 29 days – ideally even less.
Looking at the data, you soon realise there are plenty of unoccupied homes around.
Figures published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government reveal that there are currently more than 216,000 long-term vacant properties (those empty for at least six months) in England. While research carried out by the Liberal Democrats discovered that more than 11,000 homes across the UK have been empty for at least a decade.
With so many unoccupied properties in the UK, it’s important that homeowners understand the implications of leaving a home empty. With insurance, for example, standard home insurance does not cover property for theft, attempted theft, malicious damage or water damage past the standard 30 days. For that you need to take out specialist unoccupied home insurance.

How do you maintain a vacant house?

An unoccupied home is at greater risk of theft and vandalism than an occupied one. Luckily there are things you can do to protect and safeguard your empty home.

1 Check the locks

Security needs to be your number one priority when leaving a house empty. It sounds like a really obvious thing to do, but forgetting to check the locks is easy to do. Moving out of a home can be stressful – there’s the removal people to coordinate and you may be keen to get to your new home or jet off on holiday. Wherever you are heading, make sure all locks are in good working order and locked – that includes windows, sheds, garages and any other outbuildings.

2 Lighting, alarms and heating

While you may be tempted to cancel all utility services (e.g. water and electricity) you may also want to consider using lighting or alarms to deter any opportunists. Lights set on timers will make it seem like someone is home and a motion-sensor security light or deterrent alarms can be very effective too. Keeping your heating set to a very low temperature (even just 12 degrees) during the winter will prevent against burst pipes. Sometimes home insurance policies stipulate having the heating on constantly, so be sure to check.

3 Regularly inspect the property

Making regular trips to the property means you can keep an eye on it and carry out any odd jobs that need doing. If you are unable to do this yourself, it is worth asking a friend or neighbour to do it on your behalf. Leaving a key with a trusted neighbour is also a good idea if someone (e.g. a handyman or police officer) needs to get into the house.

4 Keep on top of the gardening

When left unoccupied – especially during the summer months – gardens can soon start looking overgrown and uncared for. And that’s a clear signal that there’s no one home to look after it. Make sure you keep the grass mown, hedges trimmed and weeds at bay. If you are doing the gardening yourself, make sure all tools are locked up at the end of the day, too.

5 Remove any valuables

Make sure that any flashy electronics, pricey rugs, valuable artwork and expensive jewellery are removed from your home before you move out. If you want to leave your home furnished then you can either rent furniture or source it from charity shops.

How do you secure an unoccupied house?

As well as making sure you cover off all the empty home maintenance checks listed above, you might also want to consider a live-in guardian for your home.
According to data from Homesitters, Britain’s largest home and pet-sitting firm, there is an increased demand for such a service as people look for ways to protect their homes from vandalism, damage and theft.
As Alan Irvine, managing director of Homesitters explained: “A live-in guardian is a cost-effective way to keep the property secure, protecting the property value and reducing insurance premiums and maintenance costs.”

Insuring an unoccupied property

If you are leaving your home empty for 30 days or more, chances are your standard home insurance policy will not cover you. 30 days is typical, but some insurance policies will stipulate a shorter period of time and others will specify 45 days or longer.
If you know you are going to be out of your house for a longer stretch of time, it is worth speaking to your insurer to let them know the situation. They may be able to offer you additional cover on your existing policy, but if not, you may need to think about getting a dedicated unoccupied home insurance policy.
If you do not let your insurance provider know you are leaving your home unoccupied for more than 30 days and need to make a claim, you may risk invalidating your insurance cover.
It’s also worth remembering that if a house is boarded up, it may not be covered by your insurance policy. Make sure you read the small print attached to any home insurance as terms and conditions will vary from one provider to the next.
Finding good value unoccupied home insurance doesn’t need to be a challenge. At Insurance Choice we can help you find the right cover to suit your needs.
We can cover most non-standard risks including floods, subsidence and owners with an adverse claims history. Find out more about unoccupied home insurance and all the other insurance products on offer at Insurance Choice.
Contact the friendly team on 01926 683 086and get a quick quote today.