How to look after your vacant home in COVID-19

If you are responsible for a private residence or commercial property that has been left vacant or has been unoccupied for a certain period of time, then you may find that your current insurance policy only offers protection for a maximum of 30 consecutive days with restricted conditions in place.

So how do you keep your vacant property safe during a tenancy gap, renovation project, probate period or general vacancy period? And how can you manage this during the COVID-19 lockdown? Below are our tips on how to keep your unoccupied property protected during these unprecedented times.

Do your homework before taking out a policy

There are many reasons why the property you are responsible for may be vacant. It is always worth carefully reading your current insurance policy or contacting your provider to be sure what exactly you are covered for. Ask questions like:

  • How long is my unoccupied property covered for? 30 days, 40 days, more?
  • What does the insurance cover entail? Water damage, theft, vandalism, structural damage etc?
  • What additional cover could I benefit from?
  • Will my contents also be covered?
  • How often will I need to check my property?

Any questions such as these will better prepare you should you ever have to take out a policy or amend your existing one. Even more importantly, if the worst should happen and you need to make a claim on your policy, you will be much more aware of what to expect when it comes to what you are and aren’t covered for.

What could be expected from your policy?

Once you have an unoccupied property insurance policy that suits all of your requirements, you may be required by your provider to carry out certain tasks or inspections on your property as stated in your policy. These could include installing a security system, visiting the property on a regular basis, insulating exposed water pipes, or checking for signs of damp and mould.

How to manage your property during COVID-19 lockdown

Normally, carrying out such tasks as listed above wouldn’t be too much of an issue day to day. But with the public now ordered into lockdown by the Government, how can you manage your vacant property efficiently and safely?

  • Notify your insurance provider immediately and ask if their current policy requirements are still in place or have been relaxed. Many insurance providers have loosened their requirements and will be reviewing changes as and when. But never assume this is the case! Get confirmation from your provider. If the terms of your policy have been relaxed, for example you are no longer required to make visits to your empty property until the lockdown is no longer in force, then that enables you to only leave your home for the essentials as stated in the Government Guidelines.
  • If you have been managing a vacant property prior to the COVID-19 restrictions, then you may have already taken into consideration some of the top threats to your property:
    • Water damage
    • Fire damage
    • Theft and vandalism
    • Malicious Damage (MD)

This means prepping your unoccupied property to prevent such incidents from occurring. This could include turning off the water mains, installing industry approved fire alarms and removing any potential fire hazards and finally, discouraging any possible theft, MD or vandalism with security cameras, alarms, lighting, locks and even keeping the outside of the property looking occupied (removing rubbish, tending to overgrown bushes etc).

If you do find yourself responsible for an empty property during the COVID-19 crisis, you may have to visit your property to ensure the above measurements are in place in case of an emergency such as burst pipes, vandalism or break-ins or structural damage that leaves the house exposed to the elements. If you must attend to your empty property, do so with caution while trying to follow the Government’s safety guidelines.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer on how to manage your unoccupied property during the COVID-19 lockdown, as each situation can drastically differ from the next, particularly during these uncertain times. However, by following the Government’s COVID-19 protection guidelines and seeking advice from your insurance provider, you will be better prepared, as well as understanding your cover if the time comes and you need to make a claim on your policy.