Unoccupied Homes: Risks and Responsibilities


Unoccupied residential properties are a common sight in many neighbourhoods. Whether it’s a vacation home sitting empty during the off-season or a house waiting to be sold, these vacant dwellings can pose challenges for both homeowners and communities.

Understanding Unoccupied

The term “unoccupied” differs slightly from “vacant.” An unoccupied property is furnished and intended for habitation, just without anyone living there currently. Vacant properties, on the other hand, are typically unfurnished and may not be habitable.

Insurance Implications

Standard home insurance policies typically cover occupied residences. However, they may have limitations on how long a property can be unoccupied, often ranging from 30 to 60 days. Leaving a home vacant for longer than this period without informing your insurer and potentially switching to unoccupied property insurance could invalidate your claim in case of damage.

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Increased Risks

Unoccupied properties are more vulnerable to certain threats:

  • Break-ins and vandalism: Empty homes are seen as easier targets by criminals.
  • Water damage: Burst pipes or leaking appliances can go unnoticed for longer periods in unoccupied properties, leading to extensive water damage.
  • Squatting: Unoccupied homes are vulnerable to squatters in some areas, leading to lengthy legal battles for homeowners to evict them.

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Responsibilities of Homeowners

Homeowners with unoccupied properties should take steps to mitigate these risks:

  • Inform your insurer: Let them know the property will be unoccupied and discuss unoccupied property insurance options.
  • Security measures: Install a security system, ensure all doors and windows are secure, and consider using timers for lights to give the illusion of occupancy.
  • Maintain the property: Regularly check on the property to ensure there are no leaks or damage. Consider having someone housesit or collect mail to deter would-be trespassers.

Community Impact

Unoccupied properties can also affect neighbourhoods:

  • Lower property values: A concentration of vacant homes can bring down property values in the surrounding area.
  • Increased crime: Unoccupied properties can become havens for criminal activity.

Addressing the Issue

For communities with high numbers of unoccupied properties, there are potential solutions:

  • Registration: Local councils can track unoccupied properties and enforce safety regulations more effectively by requiring their registration.
  • Revitalization programs: Programs that encourage renovation or redevelopment of unoccupied properties can improve neighbourhoods.

Unoccupied residential properties are a complex issue with consequences for homeowners, insurers, and communities. By understanding the risks and taking preventative measures, homeowners can minimize the negative impacts of vacant dwellings. At the same time, communities can explore solutions to address the challenges posed by unoccupied properties.

If you wish to discuss your policy with us, call us today on 01273 827090 or click here. We can help with all types of properties and insurances.


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