What if my premises or office is unoccupied? Am I covered?

The comments below are guidance and support to prompt you to think about the areas covered and points made. You should contact your insurer or Broker for advice before making any decisions about your own circumstances. Every policyholder should, in my view, formally advise their insurer or Broker where they have either suspended trading and/or closed their premises. Most SME policies will contain a wording relating to unoccupancy where the policy cover may, after a period of time (often 30 days), be limited to certain perils only like Fire, Lightning, Explosion so it’s important that policyholders check this. Insurers have stepped up to the plate on this and have written out to policyholders and/or Brokers advising them that although their policy may contain restrictions in cover after a specified period, they will continue to provide full cover for an extended period, often up to 60 days or even 90 days at not additional charge. They do however expect policyholders to take all reasonable to steps to secure their premises in accordance with any policy conditions that applied before the unoccupancy e.g. to ensure that shutters are down where a premises has these, that exit doors are properly locked and that intruder alarms are set. Furthermore, many policies may include a requirement that during this period of unoccupancy they (the policyholder or their representatives) regularly visit the premises to ensure that all is in order and record this somewhere – we would suggest that a good strategy would be to take a few photos or a video of the premises each time they are visited as this will act as evidence of the time/date visited and insurers may want this as proof of regular inspection in the event of a claim. With further restrictions on lock down likely to come in the near future, this last requirement i.e. to regularly visit the premises to ensure that all is in order could be problematic, and policyholders should check with their insurer or Broker if this requirement can be waived should this happen. It would be a brave insurer that would insist on a policyholder to leave the relative safety of their own home to carry out an inspection of their business premises where this contravened Government instructions on lock down.

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