Do you need a specific home insurance policy for your second home?

Home insurance

Do you have a second home which you don’t rent out? If the answer is yes, there are some important things for you to know about the type of insurance you may need to keep your second home well protected.

On average, around 1 in 10 people in the UK own a second home, according to government surveys.[1] This is a significant number – however, it can still be tricky to get second homes covered under a standard home insurance policy.

This is because your second home is generally used in a different way to your first home. It might be your personal holiday getaway, a weekend retreat or a home away from home. Either way, your insurer needs to know, as it could affect the validity and effectiveness of your home insurance.

Why might this be? In general terms, it’s because your second property – through having a different purpose – faces a different set of risks to your main home. In your insurer’s eyes, these risks mean you need a policy which covers a little more than your standard buildings and contents insurance.

What kind of risks does your second home face?

Unoccupancy: This is a primary concern for your insurer. In most cases, a standard buildings insurance policy will not cover properties which have been left alone for periods over 30 days, as they are more susceptible to theft and damage. Unoccupancy also means any damage could get worse before you’ve even had a chance to realise something is wrong.

Storm damage: Much the same as unoccupancy, storm damage is another risk which scores at the top of the insurer’s risk radar. Last year alone, LV= reported a total pay-out of almost £10 million in storm damage claims. For second homes in particular, the combination of potential storm damage and unoccupancy means a much higher risk from an insurer’s perspective – and for you, if your second home isn’t covered sufficiently.

Escape of water: A leak in your home is never easy to manage. However, an undetected leak in your second property could be catastrophic. According to the Association of British Insurers, escape of water claims cost approximately £1.8 million every day. So, when it comes to your second home, insurers won’t want to take any chances, and neither we imagine would you.

What’s the difference between a standard home insurance policy and second home cover?

There are plenty of similarities between a primary and secondary home insurance policy, which is why it can be easy to think that both homes need the same kind of cover.

Both policies normally include contents insurance, accidental damage and buildings insurance, and you’ll need to provide a property rebuild cost for each. On the face of it, you might not feel you need to look much deeper – but because of the risks we’ve mentioned above, it’s important you don’t get caught out with the wrong or insufficient cover.

Many of the differences in your second home policy will be set out by the insurer. If this is the case, you’ll need to follow the conditions outlined by your insurer.

Depending on the policy, this could include:

  • draining the water systems before long periods when the house will be empty;
  • keeping the heating on a low level to avoid frozen pipes; or
  • having a specific type of lock to avoid the risk of theft.

Remember, keeping your home safe is the best way to keep your second home insurance claims as low as possible.

What if I let out my second home as a holiday let?

If you let out your second home as a holiday home, you may need to look into a holiday let insurance package. It’s also important to note that a holiday home can’t normally be covered by standard landlord insurance as this type of policy doesn’t tend to cover short-term lets. Likewise, a second home insurance policy won’t provide enough cover if you’re letting out your second property to others.

For letting out your second home, you may want to invest in loss of rent cover. This is a useful policy for those with long-term rental plans for their second (or third or fourth!) homes, as it will cover you for any rent lost in case of cancellations or unforeseen circumstances. You can also invest in alternative accommodation cover – this will help you pay for your guests to stay elsewhere if your property can’t be used.

If you have staff working at your second home – for example, a cleaner or gardener – you might also need to get employers’ liability insurance. This could be added as a feature of your buildings insurance, although it’s more likely to be sold as a standalone policy, but be sure to check this with your insurer.

Insuring a second property may seem a little daunting. However, when your next renewal time comes around, talk to your insurer about how you use your property. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what type of cover options you have, and help to make sure your second home is as well protected as it can be.

If you can, check in on your second home regularly to make sure everything is running smoothly, or ask someone else to do this for you if you live further away. When you next come to review the insurance cover for your second home, make sure you get all the necessary cover options included.

Want more? Read our 5 things to know before making a home insurance claim.

[1] GOV.UK Second home survey

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