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Unoccupied House Insurance: What You Need to Know

Written by, Marija Petkova

Updated November, 24, 2022

If you are planning to leave your house for longer than two months, getting unoccupied house insurance may be more than worth it. Empty homes are more likely to be broken into and are at higher risk of structural damage.

What does unoccupied house insurance cover and how much does it cost?

You can find all the answers in the article below. 

What Is Unoccupied Home Insurance?

Unoccupied home insurance covers properties that have been left empty for longer than the standard home insurance policy permits, which is usually 30 to 60 days (depending on the terms of your insurance). It is usually taken out to cover homes that are not occupied on a regular basis, such as second homes or holiday properties.

Typically house insurance for empty houses provides coverage from three to 12 months, with the possibility of an extension when renewing your policy. Should you need cover for longer than a year, it might be a good idea to shop around for new specialist insurance. 

Because empty homes are seen as high-risk properties, you may have to pay higher premiums for your unoccupied property insurance policy. Vacant houses are more likely to be targeted by burglars, plus the risk of structural damage is higher as there will be no one to minimise the extent of the damage in case of a fire or water leak. 

Several of the top-rated home insurers in the UK offer specialist insurance policies for unoccupied homes, but since the cost is higher you need to carefully compare quotes to find the best deal for you.  

When might you need unoccupied property insurance?

As previously stated, most customers take out house insurance for an unoccupied property to cover second or holiday homes. However, there are other situations that might force a homeowner to leave the property empty for an extended period of time, such as 

  • Going on a long holiday or extended business trip 
  • You are a landlord in between tenants
  • Your house is undergoing renovations and is uninhabitable 
  • You have a property under probate that is left vacant until all inheritance documents are sorted
  • You have moved to a new home, but your old house is still on the market 

Before you opt for specialist house insurance for unoccupied properties, check your existing policy to see what exactly is covered. Most insurers will provide coverage for homes left empty for up to 30 days, but some might cover you for up to 60 days. Carefully read the policy documents to check whether you actually need specialist insurance. 

The same applies to those letting property out. In fact, landlord insurance policies are even more flexible when it comes to how long the property can be empty (with some providing full coverage for up to 90 days), so if your insurance covers you during the time the home is vacant, you will not need to take out a separate unoccupied property insurance policy. 

However, if you plan to be away for longer than 30 days (or the amount of time specified in your policy), you must let your insurer know. Otherwise, you risk invalidating your insurance, which means even if you make a claim, your insurance company will not pay out. 

What Does Unoccupied Property Insurance Cover?

In most cases, home insurance for an unoccupied property will cover the same risks as a standard policy. These can include: 

  • Damage caused by fire, storm, or floods; 
  • Theft and/or attempted theft; 
  • Vandalism
  • Escape of water or oil, i.e. burst pipes, oil and water leaks
  • Property owner liability, protecting you if something from your property causes damage to another person’s property, for instance, if a tile from your roof breaks your neighbour’s windscreen;  
  • Legal expenses: Should you be required to deal with squatters, trespassers or personal ID theft.

Most of these factors are covered as standard among insurers, although every provider is different so it is important to check the terms and conditions of the unoccupied home insurance policy before purchasing it.

What’s not included in unoccupied home insurance? 

While coverage may vary from insurer to another, there are some common exclusions that are typically not included in home insurance for an empty property, such as:

  • Burglary via unforced entry: Your provider will not pay out if the house was burgled or occupied by squatters because you left the door or windows unlocked.
  • Renovations or buildings works: If you are undertaking major building works on your property, such as adding extensions or changing the structure of the home, any damage that happens as a result is not usually covered.
  • Damage caused by contractors: If damages are caused by a builder or contractor, their insurance should cover the damage. 

How Much Does Unoccupied House Insurance Cost?

As mentioned above, unoccupied house insurance is typically more expensive than regular homeowners insurance due to the greater risk of damage or theft. What’s more, the exact cost of home insurance on an empty property can’t be determined as insurers use a set of criteria to calculate premiums for each of their customers. 

These are some of the most common factors insurance companies consider when determining the cost of home insurance. 

  • The value of the property—The higher the value of the home and the items in it, the more expensive costs for repairs will be.
  • Coverage levels —If you add more extras to your policy, you will naturally pay more.
  • The location—Insurance for properties located in areas with high crime rates or regions at risk of flooding typically costs more.
  • Security—Homes that have high-end safety features, such as smart security systems or cameras, might cost less to insure.
  • Maintenance—How well the property is maintained also plays a role. For instance, insulated pipes are less likely to freeze in winter resulting in fewer water leaks claims which in turn leads to a higher no-claims discount. 

How to Claim on Unoccupied Property Insurance?

Each insurer has their own way of managing claims, but in general, these are the steps to follow when making a claim on your empty house insurance policy:

1. Before you call

Make sure that you have the following things:

  • Policy documents—you will these as they contain your insurer’s number. If you can’t find them, try to get the number using a different method and then ask your insurance company for a copy.
  • Police crime reference number (if applicable)—Call the police first if there are stolen items or malicious damage done to your property. They will give you a crime number which you need to pass on to your insurer. 
  • Photos and receipts for high-value items—if you have saved them they could come in handy and support your claim. Alternatively, you could keep damaged contents as evidence. 

2. Contact your insurer

Call your provider and inform them about the incident. 

3. Make a claim

Your insurer will look through the details of the claim and if everything checks out, they will authorise the payout for repairs or replacements. 

Before you make a claim though, think about how it will affect 

  • The amount of excess you have to pay towards a claim. In some cases, it could be cheaper paying for repairs yourself.
  • Your no-claims discount. Customers who have not made a claim in a year (or longer) are entitled to lower premiums as part of the insurance company’s no-claims bonus.

How Can You Reduce the Cost of Unoccupied Home Insurance?

To keep home insurance costs for your empty property down, here are some tips to follow:

Maintain the property

Keep the property in good shape, by regularly checking the roof for leaks, cleaning gutters, and carrying out regular repairs. If your home is not regularly maintained and you make a claim on a leaking roof or burst pipe, your insurer might reject your claim and you will have to pay for repairs out of pocket. 

Add extra security

Install security cameras and alarms and make sure all doors and windows are locked at all times. 

Don’t overinsure

Only opt for extras that you need—for instance, if the house is empty, contents insurance is not an absolute necessity as you can remove all high-value items before you vacate the home.

Check your pipes during winter

If you’re leaving your home empty over the winter, take extra precautions to prevent any frozen or burst pipes. This means shutting off the water at the mains or making sure that all pipes in cold areas are appropriately insulated. 

Pay annually

Most insurers offer a discount when you pay upfront for the entire year, rather than on a month-to-month basis. 

Bottom Line: Can You Insure a Home That is Unoccupied? 

Yes, you can and should get home insurance for an unoccupied property if you plan to leave the house empty for an extended period of time. Even if you are expecting a quick house sale or going for a longer holiday, homeowners insurance will give you peace of mind and protect you against losses or damages to the property. 

Before taking out insurance, though, research and compare quotes to get the best possible deal for your home and needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

What is the difference between vacant and unoccupied in insurance?

A property that has no occupants or tenants yet has fixtures or furnishings inside is considered unoccupied, whereas vacant property is one that is completely empty of people and belongings. If you have a vacant property, you might need to take out a different insurance policy.

Is it more expensive to insure an unoccupied house?

Yes, a specialist unoccupied house insurance policy is generally more expensive than standard home insurance since empty homes are seen as being at a higher risk for theft or damage. Although this is not always the case, so check several quotes before choosing your insurance. 

My name is Marija, and I'm a financial writer at DontDisappointMe. Although finance might not be everyone's cup of tea, my 10+ years of working in one of the biggest banks in my country, and my interest in extensive research on everything finance/investment-related, have made me somewhat of an expert in the field (if I do say so myself). No longer having the passion to work in a corporate setting, I decided that I couldn't let all of this knowledge go to waste so I started writing. And, here I am! Today I try to share my knowledge with my audience in the hopes of making this topic as simple and interesting as possible. In my leisure time, I like spending time with my family and travelling to new locations.