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Unoccupied Property Insurance – Lessons from Northern Ireland

The end of 2010 taught a lesson to those who might be thinking about the validity of unoccupied property insurance, especially those in Northern Ireland.

The huge freeze and then sudden thaw brought misery to thousands as pipes burst in the streets and homes, effectively cutting off supplies. For those without unoccupied property insurance, it must be a nightmare.

Landlords and indeed home owners with an empty property on their hands will know how comforting unoccupied house insurance can be when the weather turns rough.

And Northern Ireland was not the only country to face such conditions, Scotland was badly affected, as well as great swathes of northern England. All those with empty properties in these regions will know the benefit of having good unoccupied house insurance policies.

Northern Ireland was particularly badly hit mainly due to the severity of the freeze, then the quick thaw which meant mains water pipes burst just as readily as smaller domestic pipes. And thousands had to rely on bottled water to survive.

Indeed, days later, over 6,000 householders were still having to rely on bottled water and visiting standpipes to get water, whilst engineers from NI Water worked relentlessly to repair the leaks.

What made matters worse were the low reservoirs which had been partly drained when the mains pipes burst. The NI Water interim chairman Padraic White predicted that the situation would gradually improve as the reservoirs refilled and pipes were repaired. The Cookstown and Belfast regions of Northern Ireland were said to be the most affected. The Board of NI Water is said to be meeting on Tuesday so that it can discuss how to better cope with such a situation in the future.

But although the situation is improving, the people of Northern Ireland are having to be subject to a kind of rationing as the pipe infrastructure is repaired. Around 12,000 properties in total will be subject to a rotating supply of water.

NI Water is the sole provider of sewage and water services for the region and is currently a state-owned company. It says that it was the worst snowfall in Northern Ireland for 25 years and the pipe system simply could not cope with the freeze and subsequent rapid thaw. And once the leaks started to appear, they were too numerous to keep repairing and the reservoirs quickly became under pressure.

Only time will tell how many homes have had to make insurance claims for burst water pipe damage, and in some empty properties, it might be some time before the true extent of the damages are known. But at least those with comprehensive unoccupied property insurance won’t still feel out in the cold as they discover the possible damage.

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