Before you get a new policy, it’s worth understanding exactly how unoccupied house insurance works. We help you weigh up the pros and the cons, and understand what it covers for your empty house.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is unoccupied house insurance?
Unoccupied home insurance covers your property if it's left empty for more than 30 days. It's also called empty house insurance.
Policies for empty properties tend to last for 3, 6, 9 or 12 months at a time. But the specifics can vary between insurers, so take note when comparing policies.
What does unoccupied house insurance cover?
By and large, unoccupied home insurance covers your home against:
- Damage from fire, storms and flooding
- Vandalism, theft and damage from attempted theft
- Damage caused by burst pipes or escape of water
If you need to insure an empty house, you may want to consider the risk of someone entering the property and refusing to leave.
Some policies might also cover legal expenses or public liability. This could be useful if you have to evict squatters, for example, or someone is injured on your property.
What does unoccupied house insurance not cover?
There tend to be a few exclusions to empty house insurance policies, and some might not cover:
- Damage made by contractors - they should have their own, separate insurance policy.
- Damage from renovations or extensions to the property. You need to declare with your insurer if there's building work going on.
- Unforced entry or burglary - if the windows or doors aren't secure, any theft or damage claims might be turned down.
Do I need unoccupied house insurance?
If a property is left empty, the chances of theft or damage rise. A pipe may burst, for example, and no one is there to notice it. So, you might want to consider an unoccupied home insurance policy if:
- You've inherited a house after someone has died
- You're going into long-term care
- You've bought a new house and you're waiting to sell the old one
- You're going on a long holiday or you're spending some time abroad
- You're a landlord and you're between tenants
- You own a holiday home and it's the off-season
Our home insurance expert Jessica Willock says:
"The 2 big risks to an empty house are theft and water damage.
To reduce the risk of water damage, it’s important to keep your pipes from freezing, especially in the winter. Keeping your thermostat at around 12°C should help with this.
Keeping your property in a good state of repair is also a good idea. If you can, check on the house now and again to make sure there are no issues."
How long can a house be unoccupied for?
It depends on how long you plan on leaving your property empty. If you're planning to leave your property empty for longer than 30 days, you should consider an unoccupied house insurance policy. This can cover you for up to 3 months, 6 months, 9 months or a year.
You might be able to extend your cover if you're unexpectedly away from your empty house for longer. For example, your house is on sale and is taking longer than planned to sell.
It's best to try and accurately calculate how long you may be away from the home, so you avoid paying too much for cover.
Will my standard home insurance policy cover my house if it’s empty?
Home insurance is designed to protect you and your home against things like damage from a fire, flood or theft.
Most standard home insurance policies cover properties on an annual basis but state that it must not be unoccupied for 30 days or more. Although some policies set the limit at 60 days.
For more information see our guide to the different types of home insurance policies.
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Can I insure my unoccupied house if it's for sale?
Yes. You should be able to get short term home insurance when trying to sell your house.
Check with your existing home insurance policy as you may be able to add unoccupied house insurance as additional cover. Or, if you think your house is likely to sell quickly enough you may not need any extra cover.
Do I need unoccupied house insurance if I'm a landlord and the property is empty between occupants?
If you're a landlord, landlord insurance should be able to cover an empty property for up to 3 months.
However, depending on your insurer. you may need to have added empty property insurance as an extra to your policy. So, it's worth double checking this before assuming you're already covered.
Ensuring you have unoccupied house insurance as a landlord could end up being useful. This is because you may often face vacant periods as you get the property ready for the next tenant.
How much does unoccupied house insurance cost?
The cost of home insurance for unoccupied properties depends on the following factors:
- The length of time your house is empty for
- Your address
- The value and condition of your house
- The level of home security you have at the unoccupied home and how many alarms you may have
- The level of cover you’ve opted for, the more comprehensive the policy the more expensive it could be
How can I lower the price of unoccupied house insurance?
The best way to lower the cost of unoccupied house insurance is by taking your time to compare home insurance prices.
It’s a competitive market and you don’t need to pick the first policy you see. Make sure you shop around and find a policy that works for you at a price you’re happy with.
What if I fail to tell my insurance provider that my house is empty?
If you keep your standard home insurance in place but your property is empty for more than the policy allows, this may invalidate your policy.
This means if you need to make a claim, you may be rejected because you've broken the terms of the policy.