As students finish their exams or take a break for the summer holidays, many landlords have to cope with their property becoming unoccupied for a number months until the new term begins.
Even if the students have paid a retainer or the landlord has already found new tenants for next term, it isnâ€™t just the lack of rent that can cause problems.
â€œIt is important the property is left looking occupied and it should be checked on a more regular basis by the landlord or letting agent. It may also be a time when the landlord wants to refresh the property by arranging redecoration or perhaps undertake work of a more structural nature. Some even think about putting the property on the market to be soldâ€? says Maryann McGee, Insurance Manager of risk consultants Leaseguard, who offer specialist insurance and services for landlords and tenants in the rental sector.
â€œAll of this may sound as if they are minor points but there are other implications landlords must consider at this time. Firstly you should contact your Buildings and Contents insurer as they may require you to notify them of a continuous period of unoccupancy. Check your policy wording as the period of unoccupancy can vary from 30 or more days to in excess of 90 days before notification to the insurer is required â€“ it just depends on the insurerâ€? says Maryann. â€œSome insurers impose terms, reduce the cover on the policy, or increase the premium for the period of unoccupancy and some do all three. Insurers may turn down a claim that is otherwise valid if unoccupancy has not been declaredâ€?.
It is not just unoccupancy that insurers have concerns about. Insurers view any structural work taking place within an unoccupied property as particularly high risk and they must be made aware prior to work commencing. Maryann warns â€œWhen an unoccupied property is having major structural work thereâ€™s a higher risk of accidental damage and the possibility of the property not being as secure as normal, so insurers will tend to reduce the cover availableâ€?.
Leaseguard offers the following tips when property is unoccupied or undergoing structural work:
â€¢ Notify your Buildings & Contents insurer;
â€¢ Ensure you or your letting agent visits the property at least every 14 days;
â€¢ Turn the water supply off at the mains and ensure that all water and heating systems inside the property are drained to the fullest extent;
â€¢ Ensure any intruder alarms are set properly;
â€¢ Keep the property looking as if it is occupied by:
o cutting the grass regularly and keeping the garden tidy;
o using time delay switches for lights;
o cleaning the windows;
â€¢ Check that all tradesmen working on the property have the correct insurance.
Lastly, remember to inform your insurer when structural works have been completed or when the property has been reoccupied or sold.
For further information, contact: Maryann McGee, Insurance Manager, Leaseguard Ltd
Tel. no. 0845 345 0315