Unoccupied property – Faqs

Here you will find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions on the subject of unoccupied property and empty property insurance.

Why is unoccupied or empty property seen differently by insurance providers?

The risk profile associated with a property changes once it becomes unoccupied or empty.

Broadly speaking, there is a higher chance of certain types of problems arising with unoccupied properties than those which have occupants in them.

Is there a difference between unoccupied properties and empty properties?

From an insurance perspective, the differences are relatively minor, though you might not need contents cover if the property is empty, as opposed to unoccupied.

The thing of primary importance is that people are no longer resident in the property concerned.  That is true whether the property remains furnished or has actually been emptied out.

In most situations, the insurance risk profile changes. Special insurance cover needs to be put in place, typically referred to as “unoccupied” or perhaps “empty property insurance”.

Do these distinctions only apply to let properties?

No.

These definitions and empty property insurance requirements typically apply equally to both let and owner-occupied properties.

Do I need unoccupied property insurance if I’m going on holiday?

Typically no but to be certain, you should look at the definitions contained within your policy.

Generally, property insurance will cover unoccupied properties for up to a specified number of consecutive days.  The number may vary from one policy to another but it’s usually somewhere between 30 and 45 days.  That is there specifically to cope with properties that are left unoccupied or empty for reasons such as holidays, family trips or average duration business travel etc.

However, if you are planning to take a holiday of extended duration that might mean you would exceed the number of allowed consecutive days in your policy, then yes, you may typically require unoccupied or empty property insurance.

Is it obligatory for me to take out unoccupied property cover?

Although there may be no specific law on the statute books requiring you to do so, you may be obliged to (in qualifying circumstances) by two very important considerations:

  • if you have any form of mortgage on your property, it’s almost certainly the case that your mortgage contract will contain a clause requiring you to maintain appropriate and full cover on the property at all times.

If you are going to leave your property empty for a period that exceeds the maximum number of permissible consecutive days and do nothing about it, your insurance will be at risk. Therefore you may be in breach of contract with your mortgage provider;

  • it is perfectly normal practice for insurance providers to check the occupancy status of a property at the time an incident took place which subsequently led to a claim. If it is discovered that your property was empty at the time and without appropriate unoccupied cover, your claim may be refused.

In effect, this is arguably stating that it is highly advisable to have the appropriate empty property insurance cover in place in required situations.

Surely I won’t need such cover if the property is empty due to circumstances beyond my control? 

Unfortunately, that is not correct.

Typically insurance providers will make no allowance for why the property is empty or unoccupied. To take two hypothetical examples where you have exceeded the maximum permissible number of consecutive unoccupied days:

  • you were delayed returning from an overseas business trip;

In both situations, you would need to have had empty property insurance in place if your cover was to continue.

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