Unoccupied house insurance: What to know

Going away for a long time? This one’s for you!

Unoccupied house insurance — sometimes called unoccupied property insurance — covers your home if it stands empty for an extended period of time. This might be the case if you’re waiting for your home to sell, if you’re going away on a long holiday, or if you’re doing major renovations. During this time, it’s important that your home is protected in case something unexpected happens.

Here, we answer all your unoccupied house insurance-related questions, including when you need it, what it includes and excludes, and what factors affect the cost. 

Let’s dive in.

What is unoccupied house insurance?

Unoccupied house insurance is an extra add-on to your standard home insurance policy. It’s designed to cover your home if it’s left unoccupied for longer than your standard policy allows. An unoccupied house is a house that no one is currently living in, or has as thier main residence.

Unoccupied home insurance is usually necessary if you leave your home empty for more than 30 to 60 days in a row. The exact timeframe will depend on your policy, though, so be sure to read it thoroughly or check with your insurance provider if you’re uncertain.

You can usually buy unoccupied home insurance for three, six, nine or 12 months — or longer, if necessary. This will ensure that you’re properly protected while your home is empty.

Can you insure an unoccupied house?

Not only can you insure an unoccupied home — you should insure it.

If your home stands empty for longer than your standard policy allows and something goes wrong, you won’t be covered at all. This means you won’t be able to claim for any items that get stolen during a break-in, or any damage caused by a burst water pipe. 

With no one staying at the property, these issues can become more serious over time. If repairs aren’t made after a break-in, for example, it’s usually easier for the house to be broken into a second or third time. And if a burst water pipe isn’t dealt with quickly, it could continue to cause major damage for hours, days, or even weeks.

When do you need unoccupied house insurance?

Unoccupied house insurance isn’t necessary if you’re going on a quick two-week holiday. For anything less than 30 days (again, double-check your policy to be sure), your normal house insurance will apply and your home will be covered. 

But if any of the following scenarios apply to you, it’s a good idea to look into getting unoccupied house insurance:

  • If you’re doing substantial, long-term renovations that require you to move out
  • If you’ve moved a new home and are still waiting for your old house to sell
  • If you’ve bought a new house but you’re not quite ready to move into it yet
  • If you’re going on an extended holiday
  • If you’re planning to go a sabbatical or to volunteer abroad for a long time
  • If you’re a landlord and trying to find a new tenant
  • If you’re unwell and have had to move into a place that provides long-term healthcare

Is it more expensive to insure an unoccupied house?

Usually, yes — unoccupied house insurance is typically more expensive than standard house insurance. 

This is because insurers consider homes that are unoccupied to be a greater risk than those that aren’t. Unoccupied homes are more likely to be broken into. In some cases, vacant homes can even invite squatters, who can be difficult to evict. And important maintenance jobs — like repairing damage to the roof, walls, electrics, or plumbing — might be missed.

While the additional cost can be hard to stomach (especially if you’re already paying for large renovations or a big trip), unoccupied house insurance is important. Ultimately, the cost of the insurance is less than the cost of paying for unexpected losses and repairs yourself. In some instances, these expenses can be crippling.

What does unoccupied house insurance cover?

Insurance policies tend to be slightly different from one provider to another. Before you settle on the right option for you, read the policy’s fine print and make sure it caters to your specific needs. An experienced broker can help you here.

These are some of the most important points your unoccupied house insurance should cover:

  • Fire, flooding and storms: Natural disasters can cause major damage. Worst-case scenario, you could lose your entire home and all your belongings. 
  • Theft and/or attempted theft: This covers you if someone breaks in or attempts to break into your home and steal your belongings.
  • Vandalism: Vandalism refers to damage to your property, usually without any theft taking place. Repairing this damage can be costly. 
  • Water or oil damage: Burst pipes or leakages can cause extensive damage, especially if they aren’t repaired quickly.
  • Car collisions or falling objects: While incidents like these are rare, they do happen. And finding someone’s vehicle in your living room would be both a literal and financial shock!

What isn’t covered by unoccupied home insurance?

Remember, no two insurance policies are exactly the same, and some policies might include and exclude different criteria. Always double check your own policy so that you know what your protection involves. 

Here are a few situations that your unoccupied house insurance might not cover:

  • Unforced entry: In order for your home to be protected against vandalism and theft, it needs to be properly secure. Insurers often don’t pay out if it can be proven that burglars or squatters were able to get into your property without forcing entry — if you left a door or window open, for example. Always ensure your home is secure.
  • Contractors: Conducting large renovations is one of the key reasons why you might need unoccupied house insurance. But some insurers won’t cover you for damage that your contractors might cause. This is because they expect the contractors to have their own insurance in place. It’s therefore important to check not only what your policy says, but also that the team you’ve hired has everything that’s required of them. 
  • Major works: It’s also possible that your insurer won’t cover you if you’re doing major works. These are large one-off projects that are designed to either extend or improve your home. Chat to your insurer if you need this type of coverage, or to your contractor — they should have the protection required.

How much is unoccupied house insurance?

Once again, every insurer is a little different, and there isn’t a set cost for unoccupied house insurance. 

But the quote you receive will likely depend on several different factors, including:

  • The re-build cost of the property: the more the property it costs to re-build, te more it’s likely to affect your premium.
  • The location: Houses that are located in high-crime areas, or where there have been incidents of flooding or subsidence, will likely cost more to insure than houses located in areas that are safer and more secure.
  • Security: If you’re looking for ways to lower the cost of your premiums, try adding extra security features to your unoccupied property. This could help to deter burglars and trespassers, and might make your insurance cheaper.
  • The level of cover: The more comprehensive your insurance, the more you’ll pay.
  • The cover period: Leaving your property empty for six months is likely to be more expensive than leaving it empty for three.
  • Your claims history: Have you claimed against your home insurance in the past? This is likely to affect your costs, too. Insurers tend to be wary of people who claim repeatedly.

How to find the right unoccupied home insurance

Like any insurance hunt, it’s always worth shopping around and comparing different quotes. Start by contacting your current insurer to see what they have to offer. Then, ask a broker to help you source a few alternative quotes.

It’s perfectly legal to have more than one home insurance provider. Your standard home insurance can be with one company, and your unoccupied house insurance with another, if that’s what works out best or cheapest. 

Quickfire summary

So, do you need unoccupied house insurance and, if so, how do you go about getting it?

If your home is likely to be empty for more than 30 days, it’s important that you get unoccupied house insurance to protect you in case anything goes wrong. Without unoccupied property insurance, you would be liable for any unexpected problems — such as a break-in or a major maintenance issue.

Speak to your provider or chat to a broker to ensure that you’re properly covered. 

At Howden we provide home insurance for over 150,000 clients, covering all kinds of homes and contents, including unoccupied house insurance. We’re here to help you find the cover that’s right for you.

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