Exploring the unoccupancy clause
However, there are plenty of reasons why a home might be empty.
Perhaps the previous inhabitants have come to the end of their tenancy, or the property is undergoing planned or cyclical repairs, or much-needed refurbishment. Maybe the property is going through probate. Professional landlords and business owners will be much more aware that building policies contain unoccupancy clauses – but domestic home owners need to know these stipulations exist, too.
Why do unoccupancy clauses exist?
The reason for unoccupancy clauses is clear; insurers set conditions of unoccupancy so the property at risk isn’t left unduly exposed to damage. And it isn’t unreasonable to expect property owners to take steps to mitigate risk. For example, in December 2022, UK temperatures plunged to -15.7c and within days rocketed up to 10c and higher. A big freeze followed by a short sharp thaw means ideal conditions for burst pipes, and this can be a recipe for disaster, particularly where copper pipes carry mains water, as these pipes are often left uninsulated without hot water passing through.
Can insurers be flexible?
Most insurers will allow unoccupancy for a prolonged period providing it’s agreed in advance, recorded in the policy schedule, and all conditions of unoccupancy are complied with. Conditions of unoccupancy typically involve leaving loft hatches open, lagging exposed copper pipes, and leaving the central heating on, set to low. Alternatively, policyholders may drain down heating systems and shut water supplies off.
Check with your insurer, read your policy schedule and booklet, and make sure you take steps to comply with your insurer’s terms at all times.
The perils of leaving a property unoccupied
When pipes burst in unoccupied properties, the results can be devastating – even if the leak is only left unattended for a short while. Water damage may impact every room in the house, turning walls to mush; corroding boilers and heating systems; delaminating and degrading pretty much every building fabric used in the construction of modern property; and leaving your walls covered in toxic mould. Header tank and loft floods left unabated for 24 hours will render repair bills starting at tens of thousands of pounds, quickly escalating to six figure major loss claims for larger properties or properties with high end finishes and contents.
For more information on how water can wreak havoc with a property, watch this video from Graham.
Walking into a flooded property is an extremely unpleasant experience. Even as an impartial party, it can still be destressing for my team and me. Even with the most proactive restoration and claims management processes, you’re likely booking in for several months of significant inconvenience for a major loss flood claim. I offer a personal undertaking to tirelessly help anyone in this position, regardless of their circumstances, but I implore you not to turn this distress into misery by having your claim repudiated for not following policy guidelines, or non-compliance of unoccupancy clauses.
If you need help understanding your policy and the conditions set out in your worded policy booklet, please don’t hesitate to contact Your Claim for a second opinion or clarification. If you need to make a flood claim, we will give you honest, fair advice before you contact your insurer which will increase your chances of a successful claim. That will cost you nothing more than your time.