As thousands of Spanish holiday home owners lock up and leave their homes for winter, holiday home insurance experts Schofields are urging owners to make sure they understand what is covered and what is excluded whilst their properties are left empty.
“As the risky winter months approach, check over the terms of your insurance. What are the policy exclusions relating to unoccupancy, because many so-called Spanish holiday home insurance policies place difficult and unreasonable restrictions on the cover when your home is left empty. If you claim and then discover you aren’t covered it will be both distressing and expensive, so verify any unoccupancy exclusions now” advise Schofields.
Check your insurance obligations with regards to:
Do you have to maintain a set minimum temperature throughout the winter?
Frozen pipes and bursts often occur when the heating is switched off completely when a house is empty (increasingly so as homeowners face energy price increases). To prevent frozen pipes and bursts some insurers insist that homes are heated to a certain minimum temperature during certain months.
If there are heating terms in your policy would you be insured if your heating failed due to a power cut or boiler malfunction, the temperature plunged and a burst pipe occurred? Probably not, leaving you financially responsible for the claim.
Does the water system need to be drained when you leave your holiday home unoccupied?
Check if this stipulation is included in your insurance small print, as you don’t want to be uninsured, especially during winter when damage caused by unseen burst pipes can be substantial
Some policies will insist that when you property is left empty for a given period (often in excess of 30 days) you will need to turn off the water and drain down the heating system. Although this can reduce the risk of water damage claims, it can be difficult to ensure complete compliance, especially during unexpected cold snaps. Failure to comply will leave you financially responsible following water damage.
What are the security requirements?
Holiday homes in Spain are often left empty for over a month at a time. During this period opportunist thieves are more likely to strike.
Some insurance policies will exclude theft claims unless door/window locks meet a specified standard and shutters/grilles are installed and used. Also, some insurers will not settle a claim unless there is evidence of a break-in, so be very careful when you leave your property. Check if you have accidentally (or purposefully – to ventilate) left a window open or door unlocked, as this could invalidate your claim.
A comprehensive insurance policy will provide full theft cover without excessive security warranties, even when your holiday house is unoccupied.
Identifying problems early can minimise loss, so some insurers require that properties are inspected weekly. This can be unfeasible if your second home is hundreds of miles away or for those who do not have friendly neighbours who can inspect on your behalf. Would your insurance be void if failed to abide by the inspection terms?
Unoccupancy restrictions can leave you uninsured, just when you need cover the most
Although the above steps could reduce the risk of loss, such restrictions and exclusions can place an excessive responsibility on policyholders, who may find it unrealistic to meet the terms of the policy. Ultimately such terms can render your insurance worthless, leaving you financially responsible for any damage.