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Unoccupied house insurance

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Most standard home insurance policies only cover unoccupied homes for a maximum of 30-60 days. If your home will be empty for longer, you’ll need unoccupied house insurance to keep it protected.

What is unoccupied house insurance?

Home insurance is designed to protect your home’s structure (buildings insurance) and your possessions (contents insurance).

With home insurance, your property and belongings are covered against various circumstances – called “insured events” – including fire, flood, storm damage, vehicle or aircraft impact, burglary and vandalism.

Unoccupied home insurance normally costs more than standard home insurance due to the increased risk of these events. For example, if your home is unoccupied, there may be a delay in discovering a burst pipe or flood, meaning your home suffers more damage. Or passers-by may realise your home is empty, increasing the risk of break-ins or squatting.

Unoccupied house insurance is also known as “empty house insurance”, “empty property insurance” or “vacant property insurance”. 

This specialist insurance policy can cover a vacant property for three, six, nine or 12 months – sometimes even longer.

Some unoccupied home insurance policies insist on adherence to certain rules for the policy to be valid. 

These rules are called “unoccupied building conditions” and may include:

  •  Draining the water system 
  •  Switching off utilities 
  •  Having someone visit weekly 
  •  Installing specified locks 
  •  Sealing letterboxes 
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When do I need to take out an unoccupied home insurance policy?

There are many reasons why a property you own may be unoccupied for more than 30-60 days (the maximum period covered by standard home insurance policies). 

Common reasons for leaving a property unoccupied include:

  • Travel: this may include working overseas, taking extended holidays or volunteering abroad
  • Buying and selling: you may buy your new home before selling your old property.
  • Letting a property: if you’re a landlord, you may have a period of vacancy between tenants, or you may need time to renovate or repair a property before new renters can move in. If you let a holiday home, it may be empty for part of the year
  • Life events: if you inherit a home, it may be empty while you wait for probate to go through so you can sell. Your home may be unoccupied if you move into a new partner’s home and put yours on the market to let or sell. It may also be empty if you go into hospital for a long time or move into residential care
  • Second homes: you may buy a second home you only use for part of the year or for holidays
  • Home improvement: you may need to move out of your home or delay moving in while renovating it, adding an extension or fitting a new kitchen or bathroom. Alternatively, you may invest in a property with the intention of renovating and selling it but not living in it

What is covered under unoccupied house insurance policies?

Exactly what’s covered under unoccupied home insurance varies between policies. But unoccupied home insurance will normally cover damage to the building’s structure and contents from:

WeatherDamage from storms, hurricanes, excessive rainfall, etc.
FireDamage from fire, explosions or arson
CrimeBurglary, theft, vandalism, squatting and fly-tipping
ImpactCollision from a vehicle or a falling aircraft
Legal expensesSolicitor’s fees for removing squatters
Public liabilityInjury to a person caused by an incident on your property
Water or oilDamage from burst, frozen or leaking pipes

What is not covered under unoccupied house insurance policies?

Things not covered by an insurance policy are known as “exclusions”. Exclusions on buildings insurance for an unoccupied house policy may include:

Unforced entryThieves or squatters entering your home through an unlocked window or door
Renovation worksBuilding works are covered under a different type of insurance policy. Any contractors you hire should have their own insurance
Poor maintenanceDamage due to improper maintenance of the property
DeceptionFor example, theft by a tradesperson you allowed to access the property
Failing to stick to “unoccupied building conditions”For example, failing to switch off utilities or drain the water system

How much does unoccupied home insurance cost?

Unoccupied property insurance will usually be more expensive than standard home insurance because vacant properties are considered a higher risk by insurers.

Incidents such as fires, burglaries and floods may not be detected as quickly as they would be in an occupied home, leading to more extensive damage and a higher claim.

The cost of unoccupied home insurance varies among providers and depends on:

  • Property location
  • Property value 
  • Rebuild cost (this is different from the property value)
  • Home insurance claims history
  • Level of cover 
  • Type of cover (buildings, contents or both)
  • Value of contents in the property
  • Items such as laptops and bikes that you need to list separately
  • Security measures such as smoke alarms and smart-tech security
  • Add-ons such as legal expenses and public liability cover
  • Policy excess
  • Property status (for example, if it’s being marketed for sale)

Unoccupied house insurance FAQs

Yes, you should tell your home insurer if your home will be empty or unoccupied for more than the maximum time stipulated in your policy (normally 30 or 60 days).

Your home insurer may offer to cover the extended period for an extra premium or may stipulate certain conditions, such as turning off the electrics and draining the water system, that must be met for the policy to be valid.  

You risk invalidating your home insurance policy if you fail to tell your provider that your home will be unoccupied for longer than the time set out in your policy details. Any claims you make will be rejected if your policy is deemed invalid.

Yes, you can get unoccupied home insurance if you are selling your property and have already moved out. You can normally add this cover to your existing home insurance policy, so speak to your insurance provider.

Technically, there is a difference between vacant property insurance and unoccupied home insurance.

If a property is unoccupied, no one is living there, but there are still belongings on the property. For example, your property is unoccupied if you go on an extended holiday.

A vacant property will have no one living in it and will also be empty of furniture or personal property.

You can get home insurance for both situations – talk to your insurer to ensure you get the most suitable policy.

Yes, you need unoccupied home insurance in this situation. 

If you split your time between two homes, a home insurance policy with a maximum unoccupied period of 60 days may work out better than buying specialist unoccupied home insurance.

Depending on your circumstances, your existing home insurance provider should be your first option for unoccupied home insurance.

If you are taking an extended holiday or your home will only be unoccupied for a bit longer than the maximum length stated on your policy, your insurer may cover your unoccupied home for an extra premium.

In other circumstances where the property will be unoccupied for longer, you should look for an insurer that specialises in unoccupied home insurance.

You’ll normally need to speak to these insurers on the phone rather than use price comparison tools to generate a quote. Unoccupied home insurance is viewed as “non-standard” insurance, and the insurer will have extra questions to ask you.

Specialist unoccupied home insurers include:

  • Adrian Flux
  • Endsleigh
  • GuardCover
  • Homeprotect
  • Towergate

You’ll need to do some legwork to find the right cover at the best price, so shop around and compare quotes from different insurers.

Specialist unoccupied home insurance will normally cover a vacant property for three, six, nine or 12 months, but policies can normally be extended as necessary. 

Take note of any “unoccupied building conditions” stated on your policy. You may need to document regular property checks, switch off utilities, drain the water system or install certain locks to keep the policy valid.

emma lunn

Emma Lunn

Money Writer

Emma Lunn is a multi-award winning journalist who specialises in personal finance and consumer issues. 

With more than 18 years’ experience in personal finance, Emma has covered topics including mortgages, first-time buyers, leasehold, banking, debt, budgeting, broadband, energy, pensions and investments. 

Emma’s one of the most prolific freelance personal finance journalists with a back catalogue of work in newspapers such as The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday, and the Mirror. 

As a freelancer she has also completed various in-house contracts at The Guardian, The Independent, Mortgage Solutions, Orange, and Moneywise. She also writes regularly for specialist magazines and websites such as Property Hub, Mortgage Strategy and 

She has a real passion for helping people learn about money – especially when many people are struggling to get by in today’s challenging economic climate – and prides herself on simplifying complex subjects.