Empty House Insurance

The Definitive Guide

What's on this page

This guide covers what is involved when arranging insurance for an empty house.

You should find most of your questions are answered in this guide. If not, start a chat or contact us.

To navigate the guide, you can click on any of the items in 'Contents' to jump to the section that interests you.

Contents

What is empty house insurance and why do I need it?

Empty House Insurance

Empty house insurance is a tailored policy specifically designed to safeguard properties left unoccupied for an extended duration, typically exceeding 30 days.

This specialist cover exists because many insurers deem empty houses to have a heightened risk for theft, vandalism, and claims involving an escape of water.

If you have an empty house, check your cover. Standard home insurance providers may decline to renew coverage for empty houses. If the houses becomes empty mid-term, they may impose additional policy conditions or raise premiums in such cases.

The reason for this is because when a house is empty, any loss or damage may go undetected for an extended period. This can increase the likelihood of larger and more costly damages.

To illustrate this point, consider the scenario of a burst pipe, a common claim under an empty house insurance policy.

If the house was occupied, a burst pipe would likely be detected and addressed promptly before too much damage is caused.

The house owner would call a plumber to repair the leak and remove the water from the affected area, thus minimising damage.

However, in an empty house, a burst pipe could go undetected for days or even weeks, allowing the water to build up and cause extensive damage.

This risk of delayed detection is one of the reasons why many insurance companies will not provide unoccupied home insurance or if they do, might exclude cover for escape of water claims.

Those that do often include a policy condition requiring regular property inspections, typically at least every 7 days. This requirement is understandable given the increased risk of undetected damage in empty properties.

Please note: Insuristic policy holders will only need to inspect the property every 14 days. More on that later.

What if you don’t tell your existing insurer that a house is empty?

If your house is going to be empty for more than 30 continuous days, don’t leave your insurance to chance. 

Notify your existing insurer to see if they would be prepared to offer the cover. You should do this as soon as possible. If you don't, you may find you don't have cover anymore.

Disputes with insurers on empty property insurance claims do happen. In fact, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) handle many complaints each year about empty house insurance.

The FOS states:

'Policies rarely define the term ‘unoccupied’, although it’s potentially ambiguous. For example, it could mean that the property is uninhabitable or that nobody was actually living in the property at the relevant time. And sometimes, where ‘unoccupied’ is defined, it might not be very specific. For example, it could say that someone needs to stay overnight regularly but doesn’t clarify the frequency of regularity.

Many of the disputes about unoccupied property that are referred to us involve properties that are undergoing refurbishment or renovation. These properties are usually visited frequently for work to be carried out. But they also tend to be uninhabitable, according to acceptable standards.'

Given what the FOS has said, its clear that claim disputes can happen. These disputes can take time to resolve and could have been avoided if a specialist empty house insurance policy had been purchased and clients understood the cover they have purchased. 

If you get a quote from Insuristic: you can relax. Our policies have been designed specifically to insurer empty residential property. Our product is simple to understand, with policy conditions that are easy to comply with. Cover can be purchased online for 3, 6, 9 or 12 months. Plus we don't charge to receive, cancel, or change your policy.

Reasons why you might need to arrange insurance for an empty house.

According to Action on Empty Homes there are over 676,000 empty residential properties in the UK, with over 250,000 of these being empty for more than 6 months.

Here are some common reasons why a house might become empty:

  1. The property is empty during probate. Insuristic has developed a product specifically for unoccupied property in probate. You can find out more here.

  2. The house is going to be unoccupied temporarily (like 3 to 6 months).

  3. The owner has moved into hospital or care

  4. The house is empty whilst it’s for sale.

  5. A house is being renovated

  6. The house is between tenants.

  7. The owner has sadly passed away leaving it empty. We have written a guide to insuring an empty house after the death of the owner that might help.

  8. The owner is on a long business trip (for 30 consecutive days or more).

  9. The family is on an extended holiday (for more than 30 days in duration).

How much does empty house insurance cost?

The cost of empty house insurance can vary between providers and the duration of cover you buy. 

It will also vary depending on your own circumstances. The average cost for empty house insurance is approximate £300 based on 6 months cover.

Here are some examples of features that influence the cost of empty house insurance:

  • The number of bedrooms: The bigger the property, the higher the cost of repair.  A pricing factor for some insurance products is the number of bedrooms a house has.  

  • The property Rebuild Value: Some insurance products are priced on the rebuild value of the house. 

  • Property Location: The location of the property can have a bearing on the price you pay.  For example, if the property is in an area known for flooding or subsidence or if it is in an area with a high crime rate then this will increase the cost.

  • Property Security: If your house is fitted with good levels of security, such as an alarm, this may result in some insurers providing a discount to reflect the lower risk of theft.

  • Property Maintenance:  If the property is in a good state of repair, well protected, is regularly inspected and all water pipes are insulated then the likelihood of a claim is reduced.  If the house has been continuously claim free, most insurers will offer a no claims discount.  The level of discount increases by the number of claims free years.

  • The level of cover you buy:  Empty house insurance policies, usually have three levels of cover.  The cheapest is FLEEA only cover.   FLEEA covers claims caused by Fire, Lightening, Earquake, Explosion and Aircraft. This is Insuristic's lowest level of cover (Bronze). You can buy higher levels of cover from us.

  • The Policy Excess:  Some insurers may offer the opportunity to add a voluntary excess on top of the policy compulsory excess.  An excess is how much you would pay towards a claim.  An insurer may reward you with a small discount for choosing to pay a bigger excess.  

What is covered by empty house insurance?

This will vary depending on the insurance provider and their appetite for insuring empty properties. You may find the cover varies significantly, so take care when choosing your insurance provider.

If you buy a policy from Insuristic, you will get peace of mind that the cover is specifically designed for empty houses. So the policy conditions will be easy to understand and comply with, and cover will be easy to buy online.

Here is an overview of our unoccupied home insurance policy covers:

Bronze: which is our lowest level of cover. It only covers loss or damage to the buildings (or contents if you have chosen to insure that) caused by:

  • Fire

  • Lightening

  • Explosion

  • Earthquake; or

  • Aircraft

You may hear of this level of cover being referred to as FLEEA cover.

In addition, you would receive additional cover for:

  • Architects & surveyors fees and debris removal

  • Property owners liability insurance, covering your legal liabilities up to £2,000,000 should a member of the public be injured or have their property damaged at your premises.

There will be exclusions which can be found in your Insurance Product Information Document (IPID) or policy wording.

Silver: which is our mid-range level of cover. It extends to the FLEEA cover provided by level 1 to also include loss or damage to buildings (or contents if you have chosen to insure that) caused by:

  • Storm

  • Flood

  • Weight of snow

  • Impact of vehicles or animals

  • Falling trees, lamp-posts or telegraph poles

In addition it also provides cover for:

  • Accidental breakage of sanitary fittings

  • Accidental breakage to underground services which extend from your home to the public mains which you are legally liable for

  • The cost of finding the source of any leaks up to £1000 following an escape of water

  • Breakage or collapse of fixed radio or television aerials, satellite dishes & their masts

  • Increased domestic metered water charges up to £750 following an escape of water.

There will be exclusions which can be found in your Insurance Product Information Document (IPID) or policy wording.

Gold which is our highest level of cover. It extends the cover provided in levels 1 and 2, to also include loss or damage to buildings (or contents if you have chosen to insure that) caused by:

  • Subsidence, heave or landslip (unless you live in an area prone to this type of damage. If this is the case and the cover is excluded, this will be shown clearly on your policy schedule).

  • Escape of Water or Oil to a maximum of £3,500 for any individual incident

  • Malicious Damage

  • Theft or Attempted Theft.

Again, there will be exclusions which can be found in your Insurance Product Information Document (IPID) or policy wording.

Please Note: The Cover is different during Probate

It is also worth pointing out that the cover will be different if you are insuring a property in probate. You can find out more about that here.

Common exclusions to be aware of when insuring an empty house

Here are some typical empty house insurance exclusions and restrictions are:

  • Having trees close to the property – can create a higher risk of damage to the property. In storms and high winds, trees can fall on property and cause significant damage.  Large roots can over time cause subsidence or heave which can damage the property.  A typical exclusion might be to exclude damage caused by trees higher than 3 meters and are within 7 meters of the property.

  • Boarded up property – Some insurers do not like it if the property has any windows boarded or bricked up. This usually indicates the property is going to be unoccupied for a long time which can be an increased risk of vandalism, water damage and fire.

  • Non-standard construction – you should take care explaining your building construction when obtaining a quote. If the property is built in a non-standard construction, insurers will class this as a much higher risk.  They may choose to cover your property for a higher premium, or you will need to source a specialist non-standard home insurance provider. 

  • Commercial buildings converted into residential spaces – is also a specialist risk. The house might be built in a standard construction, but if it is a commercial building that is converted into residential property, you must tell insurers because the risk can much greater.  Examples might be converted barns or mills, pubs converted to flats etc.  If you are unsure you must consult with your insurance provider before buying cover.

Watch out for the inspection condition when arranging insurance for an empty house

When you buy an empty house insurance policy, make sure you check your policy wording for details of what your insurance provider will require you to do.

Your policy will usually contain a condition that:

  • The property must be inspected internally and externally at least once every 7 days by you or a representative.

  • All mail, newspapers, flyers and such are regularly removed from the house

  • That buildings and gardens of the property are suitably maintained and in good condition

  • A visit record of dates, time and any observations must be recorded in a central inspection record. Presentation of which will be required in the event of a claim.

If you fail to comply with any of this it could result in a claim not being paid.

How Insuristic makes inspections easy

Empty house insurance inspections with Insuristic

Our inspection condition is easy to comply with:

  • Our policy holders will only need to inspect the property every 14 days, or if the property is in probate every 30 days.

  • The inspection can be done by anyone with a key.

  • We do not require written house inspection reports. Instead, the person inspecting the house only needs to take two images with their mobile phone (one of the front of the house and one inside). The time and date is be stored in the image, making it easy to evidence inspections in the event of a claim.

This should be easier for you to comply with than other insurer’s conditions.

Although, you will still need to ensure the mail is removed and the property and gardens are well maintained.

What you need to tell your insurer when you are making renovations

Renovations during Insurance

Many insurers will want to know about the improvements you make to your property that increases its value, the number or rooms, or size of your living space.

Examples could be:

  • Extending the property

  • Adding a conservatory

  • Converting a loft into living space

  • Converting a basement

  • Changing all of your windows and/or doors at once

Many insurers require you to notify them well before any works commence (you should give several weeks’ notice).

If you do not tell your insurer about these types of renovations, you could invalidate your empty house insurance policy.

If you are merely redecorating the house or changing flooring covering, you will not need to notify your insurer.

What if I am only installing a new bathroom or kitchen?

Most insurers won’t have an issue with this type of work, but some will.  Whilst this isn’t a big job, you should still check with your insurance provider that they will maintain your cover, particularly if the work is part of a wider project like an extension.

What if I am having landscaping work done?

If you are having your garden landscaped, laying artificial grass or installing a new shed, you will not need to notify your insurer.

If you are having significant work done such as the construction of an extension or making changes to existing outbuildings, you should consult your insurer.

How Insuristic makes cover for renovations easy

If you are planning renovations that cost less than £50,000 that don't include making structural changes to the walls or roof we can provide a quotation for the house insurance online without additional cost.

This would include projects such as kitchen or bathroom improvements, re-wring or re-plumbing or replacing the doors and windows (costing less than £50,000 in total).

If you are undertaking a major project, you can complete the quote information but we will need to refer these changes to our underwriter. If your circumstances don't fit our scheme, the team at SJL Insurance Services can provide advice and access to a range of specialist renovation insurers.

Why it is important to check your tradespersons insurance

If you have a tradesperson in your property to carry out renovation or other building work, you should always check their insurance coverage before you appoint them.

With any building work, there is always the risk that a tradesperson could accidentally damage your property, a neighbour’s property or worse, cause injury to someone.

A good tradesperson will arrange public liability insurance to cover them against such risks.  If they don’t, you could be liable for any claims that arise.

If you are having a large extension or conversion, the builder may also purchase a contract works policy.  This will cover the unfinished part of the building against fire, flood, storm, vandalism or theft.

The things you should check:

  • What is their level of liability cover and do they have enough for the job. Consider the cost of rebuilding your property or neighbouring property if it is damaged.

  • The policy expiry date. Clearly if it has expired, they may not have any cover.

  • References and testimonials from other clients

  • If you hired them from a find my tradesman type site, what are their reviews like

Tips if you need to make a claim

Empty House Insurance Claims

If you need to make a claim, here are the steps you should take:

  • Check your policy wording and policy schedule carefully to make sure that you are insured.

  • Report the loss as soon as possible. Failing to do this could invalidate your claim.

  • If you are a victim of theft, malicious damage, vandalism or something is damaged away from the house, tell the police or issuing authority first and request an incident number.

  • Find your claims phone number. You can usually find this in your policy wording or policy schedule and contact your insurer.

When you call, it is recommended that you have the following information to hand:

  • Your policy number.

  • The address of the property, including the postcode.

  • Your policy number (found on your policy schedule).

  • Policy incident number (if you have one).

  • You should be prepared to explain the issue that resulted in the claim. 

Your insurance provider will tell you what you need to do next.

If it is safe to do so, it may be useful to capture images or video of the issue that you can share with your insurer. 

If you have had to pay a tradesman to make urgent repairs necessary to prevent further loss or
damage, you should ask for and keep hold of any receipts they give you. Your insurer will need copies of these.

It is important that you do not:

  • Admit fault if you or your family are being held responsible for injury or damage

  • Pay, offer or agree to pay any amount or admit responsibility without getting permission from your insurer

  • Carry out any permanent repairs or dispose of any damaged items until your insurer has been given the opportunity to inspect the damage.

If you receive any documentation from a third party regarding a claim such as letters or receipts, you should send them to your insurer unanswered and without delay to your insurer.

What else might your insurer ask for?

To help your insurer handle your claim as quickly as possible they may:

  • Ask you to take steps to recover any property which has been lost

  • Ask you to send to them all the documents and information relating to the claim

  • Request estimates and proof of value or ownership they may require

  • Request to enter any building where loss or damage has happened

  • Require evidence that the property has been regularly visited and inspected by you or your representatives.

Some insurers and loss adjusters may require you to set up a remote video call with them so they can inspect the loss.

For larger claims, such as a fire, the insurer will arrange for their claims representatives to visit and inspect the damage.

How Insuristic empty house insurance claims easy

If the above sounds daunting then don't worry.

If you need to make a claim, you will have access to our in-house claims team at SJL Insurance. You won't need to deal directly with the insurer, instead you will be assigned a dedicated claims handler who will help you prepare a claim and will manage it every step of the way for you.

We have written a claims guide for our policy holders here.

 

How to get an Empty House Insurance Quote from Insuristic

If you get a quote from Insuristic, you can choose from 3 levels of cover and a policy period of 3, 6, 9 or 12 months.

Most people can get a quote online in a couple of minutes. If you like the price, cover can be purchased online and all policy documents emailed to you immediately.

Our policy includes the following benefits:

  • No fees to receive, cancel or change your insurance policy.
  • Property owner’s liability up to £2,000,000.
  • You can insure just the buildings; or
  • Extend cover to include contents
  • Cover for non structural renovations costing less than £50,000
  • Property Inspections are only required every 14 days

Safeguarding an empty house

Safeguarding an empty house

When your house stands vacant, it's essential to take precautions to protect its value and minimize potential claims or issues. Here are key measures to consider:

Maintaining a Reasonable State of Repair

Your insurer expects your vacant house to be kept in a reasonable state of repair.

This helps preserve the house's value and reduces the likelihood of damage claims. Failing to maintain the house adequately could lead to claims being denied, such as storm damage to a roof with missing tiles.

Removing Valuables

Your insurer provides coverage for contents, but the maximum payout for an individual item is usually £1,000.

To safeguard your high-value items, including collections, art, and jewelry, remove them from the empty house. These items are highly attractive to thieves and should be secured in a safe location away from the vacant house.

Ensuring Minimum Security Standards

Your insurance policy typically includes a requirements to secure the property against unauthorised entry.

The minimum security requirements may stipulate:

  • External doors must have either a 5-lever mortise deadlock (conforming to British Standard 3621) or a multi-locking point system for composite or UPVC doors.

  • Patio doors should have a central locking device, key-operated bolts at the top, or a multi-locking point system.

  • Ground-floor windows and other accessible windows must have key-operated security locks.

These conditions will vary depending on insurer. Failure to comply with these minimum security standards could result in claims following illegal entry being declined.

Protecting Against Escape of Water Damage

To minimise the risk of water damage caused by burst pipes or other issues, you should consider draining down your water systems whilst the property is empty.

The water should be drained at the point of entry to the house, usually from an internal stop cock.

Your insurer may apply a policy condition insisting on this, or reducing the level of cover for escape of water if you do not.

If you fail to comply with this policy condition, any claim resulting from an escape of water could be declined.

You should check your policy documents for details on the cover provided.

Preventing Escape of Water Claims During Winter

Burst pipe claims can be costly during the winter months. To address this, your insurer may recommend draining down your water systems or requiring you to keep the heating on to maintain a consistent temperature (at specific temperature, usually 16 degrees Celsius).

Failure to comply with these conditions could result in your escape of water claim coverage being excluded or reduced.

Switching Off Gas and Electricity

Your insurance policy may include a condition requiring you to turn off gas and electricity services at the mains, excluding those needed to maintain intruder or fire alarms. Failing to do so could lead to claims related to these services being denied.

Verifying Contractors' Liability Insurance

Your insurance will not cover damage caused by contractors working on your vacant property.

To protect yourself against such incidents, ensure the contractors you engage have valid public liability insurance.

This will allow you to claim against their insurance for any damage or losses they inflict on your property. Additionally, public liability insurance protects you if a contractor injures someone on your property.

Preventing a Build-up of Mail

Redirecting all mail and newspapers is advisable to avoid a pileup that may indicate an unoccupied house.

Regularly collecting mail from the property during inspections also helps maintain the appearance of occupancy.

This reduces the risk of illegal entry and potential fire hazards from a buildup of combustible materials. 

Your insurance policy may also specify this requirement.

Maintaining a Tidy Garden

A messy garden can make the property more obviously empty, making it more vulnerable to thieves.

Keeping the garden and lawns tidy creates the impression of continued occupancy, deterring burglars.

Clear snow from paths during the winter months to further enhance the lived-in appearance.

By following these precautionary measures, you can effectively safeguard your vacant house, minimise the risk of damage, and ensure comprehensive insurance coverage.

Why buy an empty house insurance policy from Insuristic ?

  • You are protected by the Financial Ombudsman Service should you have a complaint with any of our services. So when you buy from Insuristic you know you are in safe hands.
  • We are an independant Insurance broker and only work with A Rated Insurance Providers.
  • We have developed our insurance policy specifically for people who need arrange emoty house insurance. Which makes it easier for you to understand the cover and buy a policy.
  • If you need to make a claim on your empty house insurance policy, you will have access to our inhouse claims team. They will help you submit a claim and will manage the process from start to finish on your behalf.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I insure a house I don’t own?

You need to have the legal authority to insure the property. This means that you need to either own the property outright or have a lease agreement with the owner. If you don't have the legal authority to insure the property, your insurance policy will be void and you will not be covered for any losses.

The exceptions to this rule are when:

  • The property is in probate and you are insuring it as the executor or administrator. You may not own the property or have a financial interest in it, but you are legally responsible for arranging the insurance.

  • You have a power of attorney making you responsible for insuring the property on behalf of another person because they do not have the capacity to do it themselves.

How long can a house be empty before I need to arrange empty house insurance?

This will vary depending on the insurer and the product being purchased.

As a rule of thumb, most standard home insurance policies provide cover empty property for a maximum of 30 continuous days.

Other policy types, such as a landlords or holiday home policies may provide cover for 60 days.

To be sure, you must check your policy documents, which will tell you how long the property can be left continuously unoccupied.

What if I fail to let my insurance provider know the house is empty?

You will only need to tell your insurance provider if the property is going to be empty for longer than they allow.

If you fail to notify your insurance provider that your house is empty for longer than they allow, your policy may be void, and you will not be covered for any losses if your house is damaged or stolen from.

This is because empty houses are at a higher risk of theft, vandalism, and fire than occupied houses.

Here are some of the reasons why your insurance policy may be void if you fail to notify your provider that your house is empty:

  • Your insurer may not have agreed to cover an empty house. Your insurance policy may specifically exclude coverage for empty houses. If your insurer is not aware that your house is empty, they may not have agreed to provide coverage for it and may deny your claim.

  • Your insurer may believe that you misrepresented your risk. If your insurer is not aware that your house is empty, they may believe that you misrepresented your risk when you took out the policy. If they believe that you intentionally misled them about the risk of your property, they may deny your claim.

  • Your insurer may charge higher prices for empty houses. Insurers typically charge higher premiums for empty houses because they are at a higher risk of loss. If your insurer is not aware that your house is empty, they may not have charged you the premium that is appropriate for an empty house. For the reasons above, they would be within their rights to void the policy from inception.

Can I insure an empty house for 3 months?

In short yes. Most empty house insurance providers will enable you to insure for 3, 6, 9 or 12 months.

How much should I insure my empty house for?

You should be careful not to under insure the buildings or contents. If you under insure, your insurer is likely to reduce your claim in line with the amount of under insurance.

If you imagine this scenario:

  • You insured the buildings for £200,000 but the cost to rebuild the property was in fact £400,000.

  • You have burst pipe that causes £20,000 of damage.

  • The insurer is likely to reduce your claim by 50% to reflect the amount of under insurance. So you would only receive £10,000.

However, if the insurer feels the amount of under insurance is significant, they could be within their rights to void the policy from inception, which means you would have no cover.

If you imagine the same scenario, where there was a fire that destroyed the property, you would be £200,000 out of pocket, or worse.

If you insure with Insuristic, we can help you avoid under insurance

If you are arrange empty house insurance with Insuristic, you may not need to worry about the rebuild value. If the property has 4 bedrooms or less and a rebuild value below £750,000, we will provide a quotation without the need for you to provide this.

The policy you buy then has £750,000 buildings sums insured as standard, meaning you are protected from under insurance, providing the property rebuild valuation is below this figure. If you are unsure whether it is or not, we would recommend instructing a RICS surveyor to be on the safe side.

We have partnered with BCH, who are specialists in building insurance valuations and have offered a discounted price for Insuristic customers. You can arrange a building rebuild valuation for £100+ VAT from the BCH website here.

Related Insurance Pages

About the Author

Rob Faulkner CEO of Insuristic

Hi, I'm Rob, CEO and Founder of Insuristic. My mission is to make insurance easier to understand and buy online.

I hold an Advanced Diploma in Insurance (ACII) which demonstrates I have a solid technical understanding of Insurance and have committed to continuous professional development. I am also a member of the Chartered Insurance Institute and hold the a Chartered Insurance Broker status.

Over the last 27 years, I have worked for insurers, insurance brokers and insurance technology businesses, specialising in product, sales and marketing.

You can find out more about me on my author page.

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