From going on an extended holiday to dividing time between properties there are several reasons why you might leave your house unoccupied and there are associated risks that must be considered.

The risks

The most common and destructive risk relates to escape of water which can be devasting and expensive. Theft is also an obvious risk along with malicious damage and even squatting.

What precautions can you take?

Insurers can all be slightly different in their attitude towards unoccupancy, so it is important to get the right advice before you go ahead with any plans. We would always advice checking your policy wording and speaking to your insurance broker or insurer for clarity.

A reasonable approach should be adopted towards home security. You can recruit a trusted relative or friend to collect post and arrange for bins to be emptied. Robust, good quality door and window locks are essential, and it is always sensible to remove any garden tools or ladders that are lying around to avoid temptation for opportunist thieves. If these items are stored in an outbuilding, this should also be adequately secured. Lights on timer switches can also help to give the appearance of occupancy and doorbell devices that allow you to remotely view visitors to your home can be helpful.

Should you tell your household insurer about unoccupancy?

As mentioned, many insures will have different views but there is usually a requirement for them to be advised when unoccupancy is for a longer than usual length of time. It is important to adhere to the terms of your policy to avoid a claim being turned down.

Typically, a policy will include a clause excluding cover for certain risks such as escape of water or theft if the property is left unoccupied for 30, 45 or 60 days (this can vary) unless the insurer has specifically agreed to different terms.

Can I get a house-sitter?

Again, insurers vary in their attitude to this solution and therefore you should contact your insurance broker or insurer to seek clarification.

How will the insurance be affected if the property is left unoccupied for lots of short periods during the year because it is a second home?

It is important that the insurer understands the occupancy patterns of your home. Many companies will only offer cover where the property is the main residence, but some will be willing to provide cover for additional homes with full knowledge of the situation. You must always declare the full situation so we would advise speaking to your insurance broker or insurer.

Do different policy conditions apply when the home is unoccupied frequently?

It is sometimes necessary to seek specialist cover when a home is frequently unoccupied as standard market policies may not be adequate.

When insurers do provide cover for extended unoccupancy they will usually insist upon certain conditions being met which can include certain levels of security being met, the heating being maintained, the water turned off and drained especially during the winter months and regular visits by an authorised person.

Can posting pictures of your holiday on social media invalidate your insurance cover?

Unless you are away for longer than the allowed unoccupancy period in your policy without advising your insurer, posting holiday snaps is unlikely to invalidate your policy. However, we recommend you avoid posting your pictures until you are back home or at the least ensure your social media security is robust and only allows posts to be seen by your family and friends.

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