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Unoccupied home insurance: Your essential guide

Mark Bristow avatar
Mark Bristow
- 4 min read
Unoccupied home insurance: Your essential guide

Leaving your home unoccupied beyond a certain length of time can have consequences for your home and contents insurance coverage. If you are planning on spending an extended period away from home, or know in advance that your house will be empty, then unoccupied home insurance may be worth considering. 

By understanding what constitutes an unoccupied home, ensuring proper coverage, and taking proactive steps to secure your property, you can enjoy peace of mind during your absence. 

What is an unoccupied home?

An unoccupied home refers to a dwelling that has been left empty for a certain period of time. This could be because the owner has gone on a long vacation or has been hospitalised for an extended period, a holiday home only sees seasonal usage, or an investment property or could be sitting vacant between tenants. 

For insurance purposes, the definition of ‘unoccupied’ can vary. For example, a typical insurance company might consider a house unoccupied if nobody has been living there for thirty days or more.

Can you insure an unoccupied home?

Your home can be insured if it's unoccupied, but there may be some tricky risks to navigate.

Standard home insurance policies typically cover homes that are lived in regularly. When a home becomes unoccupied for longer than the insurer's specified period, such as 30 to 60 days, it may no longer be covered under a standard policy. This is because unoccupied homes are at a higher risk for theft, vandalism, and damage from undetected issues like leaks or pest infestations.

To bridge this gap, some insurers offer unoccupied home insurance, which is designed specifically to cover your property during periods it is left empty. These policies can vary significantly in coverage and cost, so it's crucial to shop around and read the fine print. Some insurers may require you to notify them if your home will be unoccupied for an extended period, and they may adjust your policy accordingly, potentially at an additional premium.

How do you keep your home safe while you’re away?

Some measures you can take to protect your home while it’s unoccupied include:

  • Installing a security system: Cameras or alarms can deter potential intruders and provide evidence in the event of a break-in.
  • Install timers for lights: Lights that turn on and off at certain set times can give passers-by the impression that an empty home is occupied.
  • Conduct regular inspections: If possible, arrange for a trusted friend or neighbour to inspect the property regularly and report any signs of break-ins or damage.
  • Reroute mail and deliveries: A pile of uncollected post could signify your absence to passers-by. You could organise to redirect your mail to where you need it, or where it can be held by the postal service until you can collect it. Alternatively, you could have a friend collect your mail for you.
  • Have someone conduct garden maintenance: Keeping the garden neat and tidy is important, as an overgrown garden is a clear sign that a home may be unoccupied.

Implementing these strategies could significantly reduce the risks associated with leaving your home unoccupied. Some may even be requirements of an unoccupied home insurance policy, so it’s important to check and find out. 

What should you do before going away on holiday?

If you plan on leaving your home unoccupied, there are certain steps you can take to make sure your insurance coverage is up to date and your home is secure, such as: 

  • Notify your insurance provider of your planned absence: The insurer can tell you any requirements they may have to maintain your policy while you’re away, or inform you of any variations that might need to be made to your cover.
  • Ensure the property is secure: Lock all windows and doors, activate your alarm system, and secure any valuables in a safe or off-site location.
  • Make necessary changes to your utilities: You might consider turning your water supply off at the mains to prevent potential leaks and damage, and unplugging electrical devices to minimise fire hazards.
  • Prepare your home for an extended absence: Some common-sense things to do can include clearing your fridge and cupboards of any perishables and taking out the rubbish to avoid pests.
  • Leave a set of keys with a trusted person: Before you go away, give a trusted neighbour, friend or family member a set of keys to the property so they can check in, and make sure they have your contact details in case of an emergency. 

Above all, communication with your insurer is key to ensuring you have the appropriate coverage tailored to your specific needs. With the right precautions and a comprehensive insurance policy, you can protect your unoccupied home against a range of risks.

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Product database updated 23 Jul, 2024

This article was reviewed by CEO Paul Marshall before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.