Lengthy delays in obtaining a grant of probate or letters of administration are exacerbating the problem (the current waiting time is at least five months).
Government figures show 23,500 more homes sat empty in the year to February 2023, compared to the previous year (a 3.6% increase). In late 2022, more than 257,331 empty properties in England were classed as ‘long-term empty’ ie standing unused for at least six months.
Protecting the risks
Where a deceased estate includes an empty property, the risks are greater than they once were. Apart from the risks of flooding, damp, mould and electrical problems there’s increasing risk of vandalism and burglaries.
Criminals target empty properties to steal and cause damage. This in turn can expose the property to squatters and potentially cause problems for neighbouring properties. The value of the property can also be diminished as a direct result, property repairs may need to be carried out – and the PRs have an even greater burden to deal with.
Where the existing buildings insurance is that which was in place at the time of death, the insurer would expect to have been notified that the property is empty. Most insurers will end existing cover within a certain period of being vacant (usually 30 and 60 days). But what then?
The PRs should be properly advised about the need to have effective unoccupied property insurance in place, given their duties as trustees to protect the estate assets. They need to understand the risks of personal liability if the property is not effectively protected.
An efficient and cost-effective insurance solution can be found in Practice Enterprise’s unoccupied property insurance, designed with Watchman Insurance. This insurance product is geared specifically to cover the risk of residential properties which have been left unoccupied following the owner’s death (or because they have moved into a care or residential home).
Unlike many policies for unoccupied properties, Watchman’s policy includes cover for risks including criminal damage and for subsidence.
A specific benefit of the Watchman policy is, unlike many similar unoccupied residential insurance policies, no upfront premium payment is required – instead, there is just a small initial deposit to secure the policy. The policy premium is paid only when the property is eventually sold or transferred (or up to 12 months later). This helps to alleviate the financial and administrative burdens on the PRs.
Insurance cover is then calculated at a fixed daily rate. Though PRs can buy cover for up to a year at a time, the property must be checked every 30 days.
Importantly, the policy is also simple to arrange, with no hidden charges or cancellation fees – offering welcome peace of mind to clients who may well be grieving a loved one. For more information and a quote, contact us here