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Your unoccupied holiday home: insurance exclusions to identify

As the long winter months approach, thoughts of frozen pipes, bursts and break-ins occupy the minds of holiday home owners as their properties stand empty. Second home owners need to ensure they understand their holiday home insurance policy terms to identify what is, and isn't covered during this hazardous period.

What cover is excluded when homes are unoccupied? Many holiday home insurance policies claim that you are 'fully covered' which clearly is not the case when major perils are excluded. With insurance you get what you pay for. A cheap policy might sound appealing, but when the price is influenced by a high excess, or a claims loophole - it's false economy.

To prevent being under, or worse still, uninsured, it is crucial that you check your insurance obligations with regards to:

What are the security requirements?

Most holiday homes, especially those overseas are left empty for weeks, even months at a time. Consequently, vandals and opportunist thieves are more likely to target unoccupied second homes.

Some insurance policies exclude theft claims unless door/window locks meet a specified standard and shutters/grilles are installed. Also, many insurers will not pay out unless there is evidence of forced entry. Be very careful when you leave the house, check if you have accidentally left a window open, a door unlocked and warn your housekeeper about the consequence of doing so to ventilate your property, as this could invalidate a claim.

If you let your holiday home, it's also important to ensure theft by guests is covered.

A comprehensive insurance policy will provide comprehensive theft cover without excessive security warranties, even when your holiday home is unoccupied.

Does the water and heating system need to be drained when your holiday home is empty?

The sub zero winter temperatures that have affected the UK and even Europe in recent years have caused devastation. Horrified owners returned to find collapsed ceilings, their furniture and electrical goods ruined by gallons of water discharged over a period of weeks from burst pipes.

Check the small print of your insurance for 'escape of water' (burst pipe) warranties. Some policies insist that when your property is left empty for a specified period, the water and heating system is drained down. Check if your policy has these terms so you don't invalidate cover - although these are sensible steps to reduce the risk of water damage claims.

Does the temperature have to be maintained to a set level?

One of the main causes of frozen pipes and bursts is switching the central heating off completely when a holiday home is left empty during the winter. This practice is expected to increase as homeowners face energy price increases. To prevent frozen pipes and bursts some insurers insist that properties are heated to a specified minimum temperature (usually 15°C) during winter months.

If there are heating terms in your policy would you be insured if your heating failed due to a power cut or boiler malfunction, the temperature plunged and a burst pipe occurred? Check.

Inspections

Identifying problems early can minimise loss and damage so some insurers require the property to be inspected and in some cases photographed once a week. This can be unfeasible if your second home is hundreds of miles away or for those who do not have friendly neighbours or caretakers who can inspect on your behalf.

Comprehensive unoccupied second home insurance

Although the above are sensible steps to reduce the risk of claims, such restrictions can place an excessive responsibility on the policyholder, who may find it unrealistic to meet the terms of the policy. Ultimately, such terms leave the holiday home owner with inadequate cover.

As standard, there are no unoccupancy restrictions in our holiday home insurance policy. Your buildings and contents are comprehensively covered during periods when your property is unoccupied. Get a quote and start protecting your second home today.

For further guides and advice read our blog.

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