The Winter Pitfalls: Risks of Inadequate Building Insurance for Unoccupied Properties

Is Your Unoccupied Property at Risk?

As winter arrives, owners of vacant buildings encounter specific challenges that could lead to disaster without appropriate insurance. Unoccupied properties are especially at risk during colder months, and insufficient insurance coverage can worsen these risks. Severe winter conditions, including freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall, heighten the vulnerability of vacant homes and businesses. Therefore, having comprehensive insurance coverage is crucial to safeguard property owners from potential damages and losses.

The Pitfalls of Inadequate Insurance

Today, Independent Loss Adjusters investigate the reasons why you may not be covered for unoccupied properties with your insurer, examining scenarios such as the unfortunate event of a relative’s death and delving into the implications of probate.

Additionally, we will address significant winter-related damage, the risks associated with insufficient insurance, and essential preventive measures for property owners. In the aftermath of a relative’s passing, unoccupied properties become more susceptible to risks and challenges.

As winter descends upon us, property owners with vacant buildings face a unique set of challenges that can spell disaster without proper insurance coverage.

Reasons for Unoccupied Buildings

Unoccupied buildings can result from various circumstances, including:

  • Seasonal Vacancy: Some properties, such as holiday homes, may be left unoccupied during the winter months when the owners are away or a lack of bookings if rented out
  • In The Process of Being Sold: Buildings may be unoccupied due to the processes of the property being sold. With delays in the transfer to new owners the property is unoccupied for an extended period.
  • Renovations or Repairs: Properties undergoing extensive renovations or repairs may be temporarily vacated, exposing them to the risks associated with unoccupied buildings.
  • Bereavement and Probate: The death of a relative may leave a property unoccupied, especially during the probate process when legal matters are resolved. This can create additional challenges for the grieving family in ensuring the property is adequately protected during the winter.

Insurance Risks and Claim Denials

  • Unoccupied Property Clauses: Many insurance policies contain clauses that limit coverage for unoccupied properties, especially during winter. If a property is left vacant for an extended period, insurers may consider it a higher risk and charge higher premiums or exclude certain types of damage.
  • Failure to Maintain Adequate Heating: Insurance claims may be denied if it is determined that the property owner failed to maintain adequate heating during the winter, leading to preventable damage.
  • Delayed Reporting: Insurance claims should be reported promptly. Delays in reporting can result in claim denials, as insurers may argue that timely reporting could have mitigated the extent of the damage.
  • Negligence and Lack of Documentation: Insurance companies may scrutinise claims closely and deny coverage if there is evidence of negligence on the part of the property owner. Lack of documentation, such as photographs or records of maintenance activities, may weaken the claim.

Major Causes of Winter Damage

  • Burst Pipes: One of the most common winter perils for unoccupied buildings is frozen pipes, leading to bursts. Without adequate heating, water within pipes can freeze, causing them to expand and rupture.
  • Lack of Heating: Unoccupied properties may lack sufficient heating, allowing temperatures to drop to levels that encourage freezing, leading to a myriad of issues such as frozen plumbing, cracked walls, and damaged infrastructure.
  • Neglected Maintenance: The absence of regular maintenance and oversight in unoccupied buildings can exacerbate existing issues, making the property more susceptible to weather-related damage.

Implications of Probate With Insurance

When the death of a relative leaves a property unoccupied, the building may become particularly vunerable to damage. In many cases the people left to manage the property are unaware of the implications should matters go wrong.

  • Ownership Transition: The probate process involves the legal transition of ownership of the property. During this time, insurance coverage may need to be adjusted to reflect the change in ownership status.
  • Insurance Notification: Executors or beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate should promptly notify the insurance company about the change in circumstances. Failure to do so might result in coverage gaps or claim denials.
  • Policy Review: Executors should review the existing insurance policy to understand coverage limitations during the probate period. Some policies may have specific provisions or limitations for unoccupied properties.

Preventive Measures and Responsibilities

  • Preparing For Winter: Property owners should ensure the property is prepared for the winter months by insulating pipes, maintaining adequate heating, and sealing any gaps that may allow cold air to infiltrate.
  • Regular Inspections: Implementing routine inspections, even in the absence of occupants, helps identify and address potential issues before they escalate.
  • Occupancy Checks: Many insurance policies require periodic occupancy checks. Property owners must adhere to these requirements to ensure continuous coverage.
  • Claim Preparedness: In the event of damage, property owners should document the condition of the building, take photos, and report any issues to their insurer promptly.

Don’t Risk It!

Inadequate building insurance for unoccupied properties during winter is a risky gamble that can result in significant financial losses. Property owners, especially those dealing with the death of a relative and the probate process, must be proactive in understanding the terms of their insurance policies, taking preventive measures to safeguard their property, and fulfilling their responsibilities to maintain coverage. By doing so, owners can navigate the winter months with confidence, ensuring their unoccupied buildings remain protected against the harsh elements, even during challenging times.

We Are Advocates For Policyholders

During the aftermath of winter-related damage to unoccupied properties, the expertise of Independent Loss Adjusters (ILAs) becomes indispensable. We do not only excel in assessing and managing insurance claims but also act as advocates for policyholders, offering a level of expertise that can significantly impact the trajectory of a claim.

Empowering Homeowners, Business Owners and Landlords

ILA possess a unrivaled understanding of insurance policies, enabling us to navigate the intricacies of coverage and negotiate effectively with insurance companies. By providing a comprehensive and strategic approach, our loss adjusters empower property owners to navigate the complex terrain of insurance.

Call 0800 002 5178 to talk to one of our insurance claims experts.

Insurance Claims Assistance

How Can Independent Loss Adjusters Assist?

1. Policy Examination:

ILA brings our expertise to the table by thoroughly examining insurance policies. This includes scrutinising the terms, conditions, and any exclusions that may be relevant to the specific circumstances of the unoccupied property. Our in-depth knowledge allows us to identify potential coverage areas and limitations, ensuring that policyholders are aware of the extent of their insurance protection.

2. Case Advocacy:

A significant benefit of engaging ILA is our ability to advocate for the policyholder. In the aftermath of winter-related damage to an unoccupied property, We can effectively present the case on behalf of the property owner. This includes making a compelling argument for coverage based on the policy terms and the unique circumstances surrounding the claim.

3. Negotiation Skills:

We are adept at negotiating with insurance companies. Our experts understand the intricacies of the claims process and can engage in meaningful discussions with insurers to secure a fair and favourable outcome for the policyholder.

4. Documentation and Presentation:

ILA assist policyholders in compiling thorough documentation to support their claims. This may include photographic evidence, maintenance records, and any other relevant information. We use this documentation to construct a compelling case, reinforcing the policyholder’s position and increasing the likelihood of a successful claim settlement.

5. Expertise in Claims Process:

Insurance claims processes can be intricate and time-consuming. We streamline this process for policyholders, ensuring that all necessary documentation is submitted promptly and accurately. By managing the bureaucratic aspects of the claim, ILA allow property owners to focus on recovering from the damages rather than getting entangled in administrative complexities.

6. Claim Reassessment:

In instances where insurance claims have been initially denied or undervalued, We can reassess the situation. Our Claims Managers may identify overlooked aspects or argue against claim denials, leveraging our knowledge to challenge insurer decisions and secure a more favorable resolution.

7. Ongoing Communication:

ILA maintain open lines of communication with insurers throughout the claims process. This proactive approach ensures that any issues or discrepancies are addressed promptly, minimising delays and fostering a more cooperative atmosphere between the policyholder and the insurance company.


Engaging Independent Loss Adjusters can be a strategic move for property owners dealing with unoccupied buildings and winter-related damages. ILA serve as advocates, leveraging their expertise to meticulously examine policies, present compelling cases, negotiate with insurers, and ultimately facilitate a smoother and more successful claims process for the policyholder. As winter’s challenges unfold, the support of an ILA can make a crucial difference in safeguarding the interests of property owners.

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We believe that everyone should have their own Independent Loss Adjuster when they suffer a insured loss or damage.