When a person owns a property, it is common for it to be left unoccupied after their death. For a lot of people their property will make up the majority of the value of their estate it is important that the executor ensures it is properly protected during the estate administration until it can be passed to the beneficiaries.
If the property was held in joint names or tenants in common the remaining owner should contact the insurance companies and make arrangements to keep the home covered. They will need to be contacted as soon as possible in order for the policies to be put in the correct name. Some insurers may be willing amend the policy in the name of the surviving owner or resident, whereas others may insist on cancelling the policy and starting a new one under the new circumstances.
If the policy was held in the sole name of the deceased, it will become void upon their Death and a new policy will need to be arranged. Temporary precautions should be put in place as soon as possible. Some insurers may accept an extension or grace period temporarily until more permanent arrangements can be made.
Empty properties are more vulnerable to vandalism, burglaries and greater damage from fire, flood and subsidence as they are not spotted as early. Some insurance companies are resistant in insuring unoccupied properties for these reasons. Some companies may even end their cover once the property becomes empty.
It is the executors responsibility to ensure that the estate and its assets are protected and maintained, neglecting to do take reasonable care can result in being held personally liable by beneficiaries who have lost out due to the executors actions or lack of action.
Precautions you can take for an unoccupied property
It is the executor’s responsibility to take precautionary actions to protect the estates assets. If the property is going to be left unoccupied for a long period of time, there are some actions you should take. Taking these precautions will also help in getting the property insured whilst it is empty.
- Lock all the windows and doors and ensure the property is secured.
- Cancel Milk and Newspaper services.
- Turn of unnecessary utilities and drain the water system.
- Make a note of what items are in the property. If items are moved or removed keep a record to prevent possessions from going missing or becoming lost.
- Remove items of value for safe keeping until they are distributed to the beneficiaries and keep a record of these items.
- Regularly visit to check up on the property and collect post. If this is not possible to do personally you can ask a trusted friend or neighbour.
- Ask the neighbours to keep an eye on the property and contact you if they notice anything of concern.
- Maintain the external appearance of the property. A well-maintained front garden and windows will create the appearance of an occupied house. An unkempt exterior will attract the attention of Burglars.
- If possible, have a friend or neighbour park in the driveway.
- Have the lights set on a timer to switch on and off, especially over the winter months when there is less day light.
- Set the heating to go on over the winter months to help prevent burst pipes.
Unoccupied property Insurance
If the property is subject to probate or is waiting to be sold it is common for the property to be left unoccupied during this time. It is not uncommon for probate to take anywhere between 3-12 months sometimes more and standard insurers may not be able or willing to insure unoccupied property for this amount of time. A lot of insurers will not offer policies for properties that are going to be empty for more than 30 days at a time.
The executor will need to look into obtaining unoccupied property insurance. These types of policies will cater more specifically to risks that are typically associated with empty properties. They also tend to be shorter than the regular 12 months period that regular home insurance cover, they are typically set periods of three, six, nine or 12 months with the option to be extended if needed.
There are a few different types of unoccupied property cover and you should be careful when deciding which one to buy. A cheaper policy can be enticing but it may not cover everything that you may want or need. It is important to check what the policy includes and decide what extent of cover you want. A basic level of cover may be suitable in some cases if the property is not left unattended for long periods of time, whereas a fuller coverage would be beneficial if regular checks are not possible.
You should also decide whether it will be necessary to obtain contents insurance as well as building insurance. Building insurance will only cover the buildings permanent fixtures, for example walls, paths, driveway ect, if the property is completely empty this may be all you need but if there are still possessions inside you should look into contents insurance. Contents insurance will cover moveable objects for example furniture and decorations.
A lot of insurance companies will have a list of requirements that need to be met in order for them to insure the unoccupied property. A standard requirement from most insurers is that the property must be visited at least once every 7 days and that the property should be generally maintained, especially the exterior to prevent the property from becoming decrepit. Some may also require for the locks to be of a certain standard and if not, they must be replaced to meet these standards. You should make sure your properly understand the requirements of the insurance company and that you can properly fulfil them when accepting the terms of the policy.