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Who needs unoccupied property insurance and what does it cover?

If only every aspect of running your buy to let business ran smoothly. With the best will in the world and however hard you might be trying, however, there are times when the property remains empty and unoccupied by any tenants at all. 

You might have decided on a major refurbishment or extension of the premises, for example, or perhaps there is some unavoidable delay between the current tenants leaving and your finding new ones to take their place.

With vacant let property such as this, you are likely to need unoccupied property insurance to make certain that your valuable investment, the contents you own inside it, and your continuing liability as the property owner are adequately safeguarded.

Why is it needed?

When there is no one living in your buy to let accommodation, it is vulnerable to more than the usual range of risks and perils:

  • an otherwise minor repair or need for maintenance, for example, might develop into a full-blown emergency – with the potential for causing considerable damage – if there is no one on hand to report the issue or take immediate action to mitigate any damage;

You may discover your insurer’s reaction to these increased risks by taking a closer look at your let property insurance policy. This is almost certain to reveal that the cover which normally protects your property is considered to have lapsed or becomes seriously limited in its scope once the premises have been unoccupied for a certain period of time – typically between 30 and 60 days, depending on the particular policies of individual insurers.

Unoccupied property insurance is specifically designed to provide the safeguards you need in those circumstances.

What does it cover?

Unoccupied property insurance – which may be used by landlords and owner occupiers alike – is intended to restore the cover you need for your building and its contents:

  • it is your choice whether you opt to restore the comprehensive level of cover which may have been in place when the premises were occupied or choose a more basic level of insurance cover whilst it is unoccupied;
  • nevertheless, it typically restores the total building sum insured to ensure that there is sufficient cover to completely rebuild the property in the event of a major insured incident which results in its total loss;
  • even though your let property is unoccupied, as the owner, you still remain liable for any injury or damage suffered by a visitor to the property, a neighbour or a passing member of the public;
  • this liability extends even to those who might have entered the premises illegally – if they are injured, you may still be held liable;
  • unoccupied property insurance therefore maintains your indemnity against any such claim – typically to the value of at least £1 million.

If you are the landlord of let property which needs to be left unoccupied for more than a month or so, you may need to restore the cover usually provided by your let property insurance with specialist unoccupied property insurance.