Winters tend to be taxing times for any property – storms, heavy rain, gusting winds, flooding, falling trees and branches, not to mention the ice or snow that may lead to burst pipes or worse.
Combine all this with the added vulnerability of any property that is standing empty and unoccupied, and you may have the stuff of any property owners’ nightmares.
So, what steps might you take to keep those nightmares at bay, by preparing to get your empty property through the winter unscathed?
- when conditions are at their most challenging and the risks at their highest, the need for appropriate property insurance becomes more important than ever;
- whether this is normally provided by regular home owner’s building and contents insurance or by the landlord insurance you arranged as the owner of buy to let property, there is a further difficulty in maintaining cover once the property has been unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days or so (the precise period depending on your insurer);
- because of the heightened risks when a property is left empty, your regular insurance cover is almost certain to become restricted or may lapse altogether;
- in its place, therefore, you are likely to need specialist unoccupied property insurance;
- whether the property is occupied or empty, however, any insurer is certain to insist that it is maintained in a good state of repair – including all reasonable precautions taken before the onset of winter;
- start your pre-winter check with the roof – making sure to fix any loose slates or tiles, check that flashings are intact and watertight, and remove any dead branches from overhanging trees;
- whilst you are about it, suggests the Met Office, give all nearby trees a good pruning, not only to minimise any damage from falling branches, but also to reduce the accumulation of autumn’s dead leaves that are likely to clog up the gutters;
Gutters and downpipes
- it is especially important to clear gutters and all the rainwater goods of debris, since blockages encourage a build-up of water that may leak into the roof space or the walls of your property;
- the principal defence against burst pipes in any cold snap is adequate lagging – so make sure that the water storage tank and its pipework is properly lagged and consider maintaining a low ambient temperature in your empty property by keeping the central heating system turned on;
In the garden
- when the winter winds pick up, you may be surprised how easily garden furniture and other structures might be blown about – with the obvious damage this may cause;
- before winter sets in, therefore, make sure to put into store any items that may be moved and to ensure that larger items are adequately secured in place.
Winter is a time when your property may be at greater risk of loss or damage. When it is empty and unoccupied, those risks are likely to multiply – just at the time when your regular insurer restricts cover or removes it altogether.
To replace the essential protection you need, therefore, you may need purpose-designed unoccupied property insurance.