Unoccupied Home Insurance Explained

What is unoccupied home insurance and do I need it?

One in seven property owners in the UK leaves their property empty for more than one month at a time, meaning that many of us will require unoccupied property insurance at some point in our lives. This guide explains the key features of unoccupied property insurance and advice to keep your home protected while you are away.

Unoccupied home insurance is a specialist insurance policy to cover your home should you need to leave it unoccupied for a period of 30 days or more. 

There are many reasons why you may need unoccupied home insurance. Some common reasons include the following:

    • You may be unable to reside during renovations
    • You may be awaiting a probate or sale
    • You have purchased a home but will not be moving into it for more than a month
    • The occupier may have been taken into care
    • You have a long-term unoccupied property that is not your main residence


How does unoccupied property insurance differ from standard home insurance?

Unoccupied properties are at a higher risk of vandalism, theft, fire or escape of water. Unoccupied home insurance offers more protection for these risks than would be offered as part of a standard home insurance policy.

Features of unoccupied home insurance explained

Your unoccupied home insurance policy will include several features that impact the amount you pay and your level of cover. These include:

Buildings insurance

Generally, the most important part of home insurance is the buildings cover. In insurance speak the building is defined as “the Home and its permanent fixtures and fittings, swimming pools, paths, drives, terraces, walls, hedges, gates and fences all contained within the boundaries of the Land.

The rebuild cost

This is the cost you should be insuring your property for. It is the most you can claim should there be a total destruction of your home. You must take into consideration the cost of demolition and clearance, solicitor, surveyor and architects fees and re-building, including outbuilding, pools boundary walls. It's important not to assume that the rebuild cost of your home will be the same as its market value. Our advisers can talk you through the process of how to work out your re-build cost.

Property owners' liability

This is often the most misunderstood or overlooked by property owners. Towergate's liability insurance is to compensate loss, damage or injury to third parties. It’s important because it is your responsibility to oversee that the property is adequately maintained and this makes you ultimately responsible. Our policy covers you for up to £2 million of damage.

Contents insurance

A great way to understand the difference between your ‘contents’ and your ‘building’ would be to (hypothetically) tip your house the wrong way up. Anything that would fall is considered contents. This would mean furniture, carpets, curtains and decorations are contents but the walls, ceiling, fixed flooring and kitchen cabinets come under buildings insurance.

Optional legal cover

Legal expenses will usually cover you up to £50,000 for the pursuit of legal action against an array of issues such as the removal of squatters, personal identity theft, nuisance or trespass.

Unoccupied home insurance requirements

To make sure that your insurance policy is valid, you must ensure that your property meets the following criteria:

A well maintained appearance

Most unoccupied policies will require that the property meets a certain level of repair on the outside, so as to not advertise that it is unoccupied. This means the front gardens should be well kept, the condition of the paint and walls should not appear decrepit and the windows should not be boarded.

Regular checks

A key condition that is standard on most unoccupied policies is that the property must be visited once every seven days. The person visiting the property need not be the policy holder or owner, but can be a friend, relative or managing agency. The reason for this being that the visible areas of the property must be maintained and the property should not look empty.

The main reason for this is so that any criminal damage does not go unreported and any issues with the house, such as water leaks or damage from a storm does not remain unrepaired, causing unnecessary further damage.

Security measures

In an unoccupied property, security measures are your first and last line of defence. As there’s no one at your property, this makes it more susceptible to criminal damage, break-ins and squatters. To keep your property secure, we recommend the following:

    • Key-operated devices on all opening windows and skylights
    • Approved lock or mortice deadlocks of at least five levers or that conform to BS3651
    • A rim automatic dead latch with a key locking handle on the inside

If you cannot meet security requirements for any reason, call one of our advisers directly to discuss how we may still be able to help you.

Unoccupied home insurance tiers

Our unoccupied home insurance policies have tiers to suit the varying needs of our customers. We offer three options to provide you with flexibility:

    • Fire, lighting, earthquake and explosion cover only
    • Full cover excluding escape of water cover
    • Full cover which covers a range of perils including fire, lightning, explosion, escape of water, theft and attempted theft

Some of our customers request legal expenses cover for that extra bit of financial protection. We can add £50,000 of cover to your policy for this purpose. It will come at an additional charge and features:

    • Removal of squatters from the property
    • Property damage
    • Personal identity theft
    • 24 hour legal helpline

Unoccupied home insurance for people who work abroad

If you own a home if a different country to the one you work in, it is very important to check that your property is covered when you are not there, whether this is a temporary arrangement or something more long-term.

Temporarily vacant properties

If you’re heading away for a short period of time and it’s a one off, or you're about the move into a new house that will be empty for over month before you move in, there are policies to cover your home for a short time without having to buy a full year of insurance. Unoccupied property insurance from Towergate, for example, can be bought to cover periods of three, six, nine or twelve months at a time. So if your business trip is for three months, you can buy home insurance to cover the 90 days for which the home is unoccupied, and then switch back to a regular insurance policy.

If you have a holiday home or a second home which is unoccupied

A specialist holiday home insurance policy will be catered to the fact that you’re going to be leaving the home empty, potentially for periods of time. It’s worth discussing with your insurance provider - depending on the circumstances - it may be considered a second home.

Watch insurance advice for renovations and unoccupied properties

If you’re developing or renting a property, it’s likely you’ll need some specific insurance. Developer James Dewane talks us through some of the considerations, so if you’re buying-to-let, taking a lodger or leaving unoccupied for a length of time watch our quick video.

For the average property - a three bedroom terrace, or two bedroom semi-detached, with a garden, brick built and slate roof - it’s easy to go on some of the aggregator sites and get a simple insurance quote. However, as soon as you leave the property unoccupied, decide to develop it or rent it, or take a lodger, then you need to look at some specific home insurance.

Specific home renovation insurance

Let’s say you’re carrying out some renovations. You’re going to have tradesmen in and out of the property and they will, or should, have their own tradesmen insurance. However, you will also need to have some specific insurance for your renovations, in the unlikely event that you put your foot through the floor, damage some pipework or suffer any other incident.

Specific landlord insurance for renovated properties

If you’ve renovated the property and you’re ready to let it out, but you’re not living in the property yourself, remember not all tenants are as conscientious as you’d want them to be. That is why insurance companies prefer you to have specific types of landlord insurance: to make sure you covered against any eventuality.

Home insurance for lodgers

The same can be true if you are living in the property and you take in lodgers: you’ll need to have specific insurance such as a buy-to-let insurance policy or a landlord’s policy.

Unoccupied property insurance tailored for your needs

If the property is unoccupied, it is at much higher risk of crime, not to mention all of the things that can go wrong when there’s nobody around to deal with them. This could include a frozen pipe, burst water main, or anything which can’t be resolved immediately because there’s nobody there to spot it. For that reason, you need to make sure your home insurance policy covers you while it is unoccupied.

While most insurers will expect you to notify them after the property has been empty for more than about 30 days, a good specialist insurance company will be able to add on unoccupied insurance or remove various requirements for you as and when needed.

Unoccupied home insurance from Towergate

Do you own an unoccupied property? For more information, visit our dedicated unoccupied property insurance page or call us on 0344 892 1750 to speak to a specialist adviser.