How an extended holiday or cruise may affect your home insurance when your home is empty

If you are planning an extended break away from your main UK residence, you will need to consider the insurance implications on your home buildings and contents insurance. How will the holiday affect your policy – advice about water management, home security

Inform your insurer

The most important task you will need to carry out is to tell your insurer. Usually the period of time of absence before you have to tell your insurer is 30 days. Once the property is left empty for 30 days the insurers will likely impose conditions and restrictions on your policy cover. Remember that the unoccupied period will affect both buildings and contents insurance so you need to disclose it to the insurers of both (if different).

Once you have advised the insurer of the dates of travel and fully understand the terms they have applied to the policy, make sure you receive confirmation in writing from them of your conversation. This is essential so that in the event of a claim there is no doubt as to the fact the insurer has indeed been advised and also is confirmation for you, of any requirements applied by the insurer. It is important that any requirements of the insurer are complied with or they may not pay a claim.

For long periods away from home pass on insurance details and authorise somebody to handle your affairs when you are out of contact and in a remote location. Inform your insurers of the contact details of this person.

For matters that are not requirements of the insurer, here are some points that may be of some assistance.

Water and heating management

During a period of any property being left empty the management of the water is of utmost importance. Water has the potential to cause massive damage to a building and is the single cause of most, very large insurance claims for damage. Essentially you have two choices. The first is to turn off the water at the stop cock and drain the entire water system. This eliminates the risk of water damage to your home (unless the stop cock fails!) but does mean that any visitors to your property will be unable to use the water.

The second option is to leave the water turned on, leave your heating on 24/7 and set the thermostat to 15 degrees C. In the colder months this has the obvious advantage of reducing the chances of the pipes freezing but also it keeps the property warm and keeps away the damp. Whatever you chose to do, make absolutely sure that you comply with the requirements of your insurer.

Tending the garden

One obvious sign that a property is empty is neglect of the garden and grounds. Particularly noticeable in the warmer months of course is the lawn. Unless you intend to graze your horse on the front lawn there is generally no reason why you should have grass a foot high! This is when friends, neighbours, family can be useful. Or, if this is not possible, engage the services of a local gardener who can cut the grass in your absence.

Regular visits to the property

Some people are fortunate enough that somebody can visit your property daily to draw the curtains, remove any mail, turn on lights etc and other than having a member of the family move into your home on a temporary basis this is the ideal situation. If you don’t have this luxury then you could consider timer switches for lights, perhaps leave the curtains ‘half’ drawn so you could be in or out in the eyes of an intruder and redirect the mail if you are going to be away for a long period.

Physical security of your home

It would be a very unwelcome, ‘welcome home’ to find that you have had unwanted guests in your property when you have been away and any action you can take to improve the physical security of the home is going to reduce the chances of this happening. Firstly, make sure you follow the requirements of your insurer.

All of the security of your home should be used. So, if you have a lock on a door or window make sure it is locked and remove the key from the lock, placing it is a discreet place. If you have an intruder alarm then you should set it. It may be worth installing external security lighting activated by PIR movement detectors, intruders like to operate at night so they can’t be seen but if you illuminate them, it may be enough to send them scuttling back into the shadows!

If you don’t have an intruder alarm (and don’t want one), it may be worth considering fitting of dummy bell boxes. The most effective visual deterrent will be from a specialist local intruder alarm company with a recognisable brand on their bell boxes. These can often be purchased for about £20.00 and you can fit them yourself. Alternatively the alarm company may charge you a little more and come and fit them in an appropriate place for you. This ensures from your point of view that they are fitted in the most appropriate place – there is nothing worse than a poorly sited alarm box to shout ‘dummy’ from the roof tops!

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