Empty homes: how to best protect your home over the winter months


Claire Longman, Technical Leader at South West insurer Cornish Mutual offers advice on what homeowners can do to get their homes winter ready before going away.


Are you going on a long holiday this winter? Maybe you own a rental property and are between tenants. Or perhaps you are selling your home and have already moved out. Sometimes it is inevitable that your property will be empty for a stretch of time.

The winter months are around the corner and some forecasters are suggesting we may be facing another harsh cold spell.  We want to remind our Members of some of the policy conditions that affect your insurance cover if your property is left unoccupied for any length of time.

If you leave your home for more than 60 consecutive days you will not have any insurance to cover damage caused by storm or flood, theft, vandalism or malicious acts or any escape of water or oil or frozen water pipes. If you have a let property insured with us, these exclusions will apply after 45 days of the property being unoccupied.

In order to prevent significant damage and disruption we would suggest taking the following measures to protect your home in the winter months:

  • Ensure that the boiler and heating system are regularly serviced at least once a year by a registered professional.

  • Leave the heating on low, around 15 degrees Celsius, to prevent pipes freezing in very cold weather.

  • Insulate your loft. The Energy Saving Trust recommends the minimum thickness of loft insulation should be 270mm.

  • Ensure furniture isn’t too close to your radiators and heaters to allow heat to circulate.

  • Leave loft covers or cupboard doors ajar, allowing warm air to circulate the voids.

  • Know where the water shut off valve (stop tap) is in the event of an emergency as it will help you to quickly isolate the supply. Labelling it will also help others to locate it. You may wish to turn the water off and drain the pipes.

  • Water pipes, cold water tanks and taps in unheated or vulnerable places should be lagged to help prevent pipes freezing.

  • We recommend that pipes are visually checked regularly. Plastic plumbing joints will degrade sooner than metal ones. Arrange to re-washer any dripping taps; if they freeze, they’ll block your pipes.

  • Clear your gutters and drains from debris to prevent blockages which could leak into the roof and walls.

  • Ask a trusted friend or neighbour to check your property regularly

Taking these steps will help protect your home over winter, whatever the weather. If you have any questions about your home or let property insurance cover then please call the team here at Cornish Mutual.

Claire Longman, Technical Leader, Cornish Mutual