Beware – Property unoccupied you must tell your landlords insurance

by Readers Question

5 months ago

Beware – Property unoccupied you must tell your landlords insurance

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Beware – Property unoccupied you must tell your landlords insurance

Just wanted to take the opportunity to post everyone on a hugely unfortunate incident that has cost me a lot of money. In the best case I am hopeful that some readers might have encountered something similar before and managed to recover some of the loss, worst case hopefully the readers can learn from my mistake!

My company owns a portfolio of eight unencumbered single let properties in zone4 London. I work full time and my father helps manage all the properties.

Late last year a tenant gave notice and left the property, my father instructed the agent to find another tenant and they did within a month. Unfortunately this one fell through and unfortunately it went a bit quiet.

Three weeks ago we had a leak at the property which has caused £25k worth of damage at my property and £5k next door. We tried to claim on the insurance, but Towergate have denied the claim on the basis that my father forgot to  inform them the property had been unoccupied for so long. Apparently, this voids the claim (despite me paying the 1yr premium in full).

We have 8 properties insured with them. I feel that one forgotten phone call has cost me >£25k.

Hope you are all having better days!

James



Comments

Neil Patterson

5 months ago

Dear James,

I am very sorry to hear of your situation.

Unfortunately nearly all insurance policies have a restriction about the number of days a property can be left unoccupied unless specified as a separate risk. It is normally a specific question asked by insurers at the time a policy is taken out. Would you have any evidence that this was not made clear?

The risks in an unoccupied property are statistically much higher and hence policies only cover for a certain period of time left empty or the cost would be much greater.

I have copied in our insurance expert Jason to see if he can give you any advice or look into what your options are.

I am not sure if there is anything we can do, but it is worth asking.

Neil Patterson

5 months ago

Reply from Jason:

Hi James

Sorry to hear about this escape of water claim.

I don't have your policy in front of me, but you need to check the terms and conditions ref unoccupancy carefully. If you were out of terms, then they have every right to reject a claim I'm afraid.

Unoccupancy is one area that insurers are hot on because it is higher risk - as you have found out. If you had advised them, then they would have applied unoccupied terms to the policy - usually (and amongst other items such as visitation) either draining down the water tanks/switching off or keeping heating running at a certain temperature. That makes the chance of an escape of water much less likely and protects everyone involved.

I think your best effort should be put into checking the dates you were unoccupied against the permitted days - but if outside of this term, I don't think there's much you can do.

I appreciate this is not the answer that you want to hear, but insurers offer strict terms to limit losses and a small oversight on material disclosure will not be overlooked. If I can help in any other way, please let me know.

Rob Crawford

5 months ago

Hi James, I would be interested to know what the wording in the policy actually says. It is normally linked to a number of days of un-occupancy before you have to report it? I am just wondering if the policy contains unfair terms!

Luke P

5 months ago

My policy considers you visiting the premises to carry out repairs or checks or even contractors attending the premises as 'occupied' and so the number of days is almost constantly reset even during empty periods. Let me know if you want details.

Fen Jen

5 months ago

Change your insurers. Towergate never allow claims. I had a nightmare with them refusing snow damage to the roof on a tenanted property. They insisted it didn't snow on the day despite weather reports.

Dr Rosalind Beck

5 months ago

As a general rule, I see insurers' refusal to pay out as the starting point in the negotiations. I have had several insurance claims of different types refused initially and then with a lot of toing and froing and arguing etc., had them pay out - if not all of the claim then a good portion of it. I had this with a cannabis farm claim where it looked like a lost cause, but wasn't. As Luke says, visits from contractors, the council etc., can be useful as evidence.

Rod

5 months ago

I've thought for many, many years that insurance is hardly worth the paper it's written on! I avoid insurance where possible as long as I'm within the law as I find I'm insured in 'theory' but not in practice!

peter thomson

5 months ago

Dear James
Unfortunately one particular property was prone to voids. As I was aware of the empty property clause I have always advised the insurance company if it becomes when and after the empty after the allowable period.
Having done this the insurance company have extended the permitted void and cover for quite some time as they were assured I was actively seeking a new tenant. Communication is a must and the key to avoiding problems and by taking the name date and time of the insurance officer who you spoke with, fortunately most calls a re recorded for their protection and your own.


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