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Do You Have A Second Home, Holiday Cottage Or Investment Property Which You Cannot Visit During Lockdown?

Many people will have a second home or perhaps an investment property which, owing to current government guidelines, they are unable to leave their prime residence to go and visit. This could have implications on your insurance cover.

Properties, whether temporarily or periodically closed, or long-term unoccupied can be at greater risk from the likes of arson, vandalism, squatters, theft, and/or escape of water. Furthermore, this current harsh winter could intensify the likelihood of freezing of pipes which can cause subsequent water damage claims, which could then lead to a consequential increase in the value of any claim as any escape of water can go undetected for a considerable period of time.

Insurers would expect home and property owners to take sensible precautions such as turning the water supply off at the mains, lagging pipes and programming central heating to come on for an hour or two each in the morning and the evening, BUT there may also be additional requirements that must be adhered to.

The vast majority of insurance policy wordings (both residential and commercial) include an “Unoccupancy Condition” calling for additional precautions to be taken where the property is left unoccupied for more than 30 days (some policies extend this to 60 days). These conditions would typically call for a number, or all, of the following:

  • there to be weekly visits to the premises.
  • the removal of any accumulation of post from any letterbox during each inspection.
  • the removal of any other combustible materials; and,
  • where vandalism/graffiti is found, to carry out repairs.

If insurers have insisted on an intruder alarm, then an “Alarm Warranty” would often require a keyholder to attend the premises in the event of an alarm activation. Now that so many commercial premises are closed for trading, there is likely to be an increase in opportunistic thefts from such premises.

Compliance with the above requirements however may not always have been possible simply because of the pandemic induced restrictions on travel-insurance and the need for social distancing.

If a loss occurs, then insurers could be within their contractual rights to decline the claim owing to non-compliance with a fundamental policy condition. What then, for example, might the Financial Ombudsman Service say is a fair and reasonable outcome under the circumstances?

Under such situations it is important that this is attended to before any loss occurs. Speak with your insurance broker and explain your position so that they may liaise with your insurers and seek some understanding of the inability to comply because of the Coronavirus restrictions.

Cox Mahon are specialist insurance brokers for estates and private clients. Contact us today for more information on property owner’s insurance, including claims examples, or a non-obligation request for a premium quotation.