What to do if your home is permanently unoccupied


Most homeowners will have buildings and contents insurance, but these standard home insurance policies will not provide cover you if the property is unoccupied for long periods of time.
Hundreds of thousands of homes were left vacant across England for six months or more last year. According to data published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the number of empty houses increased by 5.3% between 2017 and 2018. The latest figures put the number of unoccupied homes across England at more than 216,000.
Analysis by home and school builder Project Etopia shows that long-term empty homes how account for £53.6 billion of property in England. Whatever way you look at it, that’s a lot of unoccupied property that needs protecting.

What is classed as unoccupied?

Let’s start with the basics – when is a home classified as unoccupied?
In insurance terms, a property that has no one living in it for a period of time is classed as unoccupied. Even if the house is fully furnished and has personal items inside, it is still classed as unoccupied if no one is living there.
Insurance providers will give a period of time that a home can be unoccupied and remain fully insured. Once that length of time comes to an end the home insurance cover will either stop or be significantly reduced.
An unoccupied property is different to a vacant one. Whereas a homeowner could return to an unoccupied home and there would be everything they need to carry on with daily life, a vacant home is completely empty and lacks both people and personal property.

How long can a house be left unoccupied?

Different insurance companies will have different rules on how long a home can remain empty before the details of the cover change. This could be between 30 and 45 days depending on the provider. However, all policies are different so you should always read the small print to make sure.
Once that time has lapsed you will generally need to take out specialist unoccupied home insurance to ensure your property and its contents remain protected.

Why do I need unoccupied home insurance?

There are lots of reasons why you might need to take out unoccupied home insurance cover to protect your home and belongings. It could be that you have inherited the property from a relative, or your tenants have moved out and you have decided to sell it.
Other reasons you might need unoccupied home insurance include:
·         You are taking an extended holiday or visiting family abroad
·         You have moved into a new home but are still waiting to sell your old one
·         You are having major renovation work on your home and have had to move out
·         You have to travel for work
·         You need to move into an assisted care home
When a home is left unoccupied there is a greater risk of it being damaged compared to a home that is occupied. Unoccupied properties are also more likely to be targeted and broken into and if something goes wrong (like a burst pipe) the damage may not be discovered for some time.

What to do if your home becomes unoccupied

A property can become unoccupied for several reasons. But whatever the reason, when this happens the type of cover required for your insurance will change. Most insurers will reduce their cover to FLEE cover (a basic form of insurance, restricted to cover against Fire, Lightning, Earthquake and Explosion.) after 30 days, however, if this is going to be long term then there are other options you can look at.
A row of colourful terrace houses

How will insurers know when a home is unoccupied?

It might be tempting not to let your insurance provider know when your home becomes unoccupied for a period of time. After all, how are they going to find out? You could say someone was living there even if that wasn’t the case, right?
But this is an extremely risky decision to make.
Insurance companies have a number of highly sophisticated ways of checking a situation before they will pay a claim. If they discover that you have lied about the home being occupied, they will refuse to pay out. Worse still, they may even decide to start legal proceedings against you – and that could carry extremely serious consequences.

What are the different types of unoccupied property insurance?

Because no two properties are the same, no two unoccupied home insurance policies are the same either. An unoccupied home insurance policy can be tailored to suit your requirements.
Depending on whether you want to insure your main residence, an untenanted property, an inherited property or one that is in probate, there are flexible options for different types of empty property.
Equally, many unoccupied homes have different insurance requirements. For example, properties with thatched roofs or listed buildings may need specialist insurance cover while left unoccupied.
Because an unoccupied home is not a permanent situation, insurers will offer different periods of cover. Of course, life is unpredictable so there is often an option to extend the set period of time if needed.

What unoccupied home insurance should I get?

At Insurance Choice, we have several insurers that specialise in permanently unoccupied properties who can offer different levels of cover to suit your needs.
These include:

  • Level 1: FLEE Cover. This will cover your property for fire, lightning, earthquake and explosion. However, you need to be aware that this is very basic cover.
  • Level 2: This is the same as FLEE cover but also includes storm, flood, escape of water, escape of oil, collision, riot, subsidence, heave and landslip, breakage/collapse of fixed aerials, and accidental damage to fixed glass/sanitary wear. This level of cover generally tends to exclude theft and malicious damage.
  • Level 3: This will cover everything you get in level 1 and level 2, but will also cover your home for theft or attempted theft and malicious damage.

Insuring an unoccupied home can be a frustrating process. However, finding specialist unoccupied home insurance doesn’t have to be a headache.
At Insurance Choice we specialise in finding unoccupied home insurance that’s right for you and your home. Get in touch with our team of specialist advisers to get a quote today.