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Insurance tips for managing an unoccupied property

insurance tips for managing an unoccupied property[intro]The long and the short of insuring any unoccupied property is that any vacant building is considered to be at greater risk and therefore, in most cases, specialist cover is required. Insurers know that empty homes are vulnerable to vandalism, theft and water damage, caused by unattended leaks, for example through burst pipes.   

Remember: Many insurers will invalidate cover if a property is left vacant for more than 30 days. [/intro]
7 helpful tips when owning a vacant building

  1. If you can’t be at your property for any reason, arrange for someone else to regularly visit the property. Whether this is a neighbour, family member or property manager, ask them to make a quick written note of when they visited and anything they did or noticed whilst at the property. Regular checks can not only help the property look occupied, but also prevent any little problems, such as leaks from escalating into bigger, more expensive problems.
  2. Making your home appear lived in even when it’s not is a great deterrent to potential thieves and vandals. There are numerous ways of doing this, for example; ask whoever is checking the property to collect any mail and to open or draw the curtains. Control lights using a preset timer. See if a friend or neighbour will park their car at your property occasionally. 
  3. Although your home needs to appear lived in, it doesn’t need to be cramped to the rafters with valuables. Many people choose to put the majority of possessions into storage if they know they are going to be away for any length of time.
  4. Make sure the following minimal security measures are in place and better yet, install an alarm. Clear entrances and exits of overhanging foliage or other debris thieves can hide behind whilst forcing entry; if possible fit motion sensitive security lights. Make sure you have high grade deadbolts on all doors and key operated locks on all windows. 
  5. Think about utilities. It may be a good idea to turn off gas and electric supplied to the property, especially if there’s a risk of squatters. Water causes the greatest damage in empty homes so either turn off the supply and consider draining the system completely, or set your central heating to a steady 15 degrees C to prevent burst pipes. 
  6. If your property is empty due to extensive refurbishment or renovation, it highly unlikely that any damage caused whilst work is being carried out will be covered by your insurance policy. It is important to make sure that all contractors are fully insured, particularly if their work involves naked flames or sparks which significantly increase the risk of fire.
  7. Always keep your insurers fully informed of any developments concerning your property. This is crucial in preventing any unnecessary delay in claims or worst yet, rejected claims.
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Millions of homes which aren’t second homes are left unoccupied all over the UK every year. There are numerous reasons for this, the most common being properties awaiting sale, letting or probate. Others include extended periods of refurbishment, owners holidaying or working abroad or owners requiring long term care. A good specialist insurer will assess each situation on a case by case basis and because of this, it’s important to keep them well informed. The Specialist Advisors at Highworth Insurance are experienced in dealing with all aspects of vacant home insurance and can give knowledgeable advice on the level of cover required and the best rates available.