Unoccupied Property Insurance: A Year-Round Risk For Probate Properties

The unseasonal windy and wet weather that has gripped the UK in recent weeks has caused flooding and the almost inevitable water damage to some properties.

It’s a timely reminder for probate practitioners and their clients to ensure any properties standing empty are regularly checked, particularly in stormy weather – even when summer is just around the corner.

It’s also a good time to check that adequate insurance is in place to avoid the risk that any claim for water or storm damage will be covered by the insurer. To that end, lawyers are signposted to Practice Enterprise’s own unoccupied property insurance product - Watchman Insurance which is cost-effective and perfectly designed to protect probate properties.

It is also easy and quick to arrange, with no hidden catches. The policy is also designed for situations where the property owner has gone into care, leaving it unoccupied.

A significant risk

Empty properties can, depending on their location and the specific circumstances, be at significant risk of damage – whether as a result of the weather and other natural events, or criminal activity.

Given those risks, it is the solicitors’ responsibility to ensure clients are aware that unoccupied estate properties must be adequately insured, particularly if it is a probate property that has been on the market for a long time.

The property market in 2024 is expected to remain slow, which will affect sales of probate properties. And ongoing probate delays are also showing only minimal signs of easing - directly contributing to the inability of personal representatives to sell empty probate properties.

In fact, recent figures reveal that a third of probate applications are not active because of missing information. Further, according to HMCTS, out of 24,020 grants of probate issued in December 2023 it took an average of 13.6 weeks for a grant to be issued (down from 15.8 weeks in November).

Protecting empty probate properties

The particular risks associated with empty properties include:

  • Water damage, burst pipes and flooding (particularly if in an area known for flooding)
  • Wind damage causing loose roof tiles and slates
  • Illegal activity, such as burglary and arson
  • Electrical faults and fires
  • Squatters taking over the property

Arranging adequate insurance is one of the most important steps to take to protect against these risks and it’s easily done. Watchman Insurance cover for unoccupied residential property can be arranged on the same day by telephone from a friendly and knowledgeable team.

Importantly, unlike other policies, the policy usually covers risks including malicious damage and subsidence. A key practical benefit is that under the policy, there is an expectation that the property must be checked every 30 days - a much less onerous requirement than other policies that expect a check every 7 days.

Also, many other unoccupied residential property insurance policies demand payment of an upfront premium, which can exacerbate any cashflow issues. There is no such requirement with the Watchman policy – only a small initial deposit is required for cover to be in place.

Cover is calculated at a fixed daily rate. The full premium then falls due on completion of the sale of the property or (if earlier) within 12 months. With the Watchman Insurance policy, there are no hidden charges or cancellation fees.

Practical checks

Clients should also be reminded to implement practical arrangements for ensuring regular practical checks of the property. A walk by may be sufficient, while for other properties there will be a need to go onto the property and inspect it more fully. Records of all such checks should be kept in case any insurance claim needs to be made later on.

Services to the property, such as water and gas, should be disconnected; any letter box and cat flap sealed; and all valuables kept out of sight. For more information and a quote for Watchman Insurance, contact us here


Posted on 12.04.24