If you will not be home for an extended time, it’s a good idea to check if you are still covered by your regular homeowners insurance. A specialty insurance or additional coverage may be needed for a home that is empty for a long period in case of damage or loss, and this is where vacant insurance comes in handy.
Why is a vacant or unoccupied home not usually covered under a homeowners insurance policy?
Insurance companies can consider a home that’s uninhabited for a long period of time as having a high risk of damage. This is because an event like a pipe bursting and flooding the basement, a fire sparking or a burglar breaking in through a window can escalate quickly with no one home to turn off the water or call for emergency response. With vacant home insurance, you may not be held responsible for damage sustained to your home while you were away.
When do you need to consider adding vacant home insurance?
Typically, insurance companies consider an extended absence from a home to be 30 days or more, but this period can vary or be extended to 60 days. Note that insurance companies may make distinctions between coverage for a vacant home and an unoccupied home. A vacant home has no one living in it and has no furniture or belongings inside, whereas an unoccupied home does not have anyone living in it for a time but is still filled with personal items. Talk to your insurance company about what is considered a long absence from your home and if there are differences in coverage for the home when it is considered vacant or unoccupied. Below are some examples of common scenarios for when you may need vacant or unoccupied home insurance:
You travel for work and are gone for long periods at a time.
You have hired a contractor for home renovations, are not currently living in the home and have stored your furniture and belongings while construction and repairs are underway.
You have a lengthy hospitalization and are unable to receive care at home during that time.
You are selling your home and have vacated it, but the buyer can’t move in for the next two months.
You go on an extended vacation, leaving your house empty while you are away.
In all these situations, you could be away from your home for 30 days or longer. However, if you add vacant home insurance and you are not away for as long as planned — like if the renovations take less time than anticipated or your vacation gets cut short — talk to your insurance company about possibly prorating your coverage to save when you no longer need it.
How is your home covered by vacant home insurance?
Each insurance company has their own policy options and can vary when it comes to events that are included under vacant home coverage. Some usual named perils included are fire, explosion, vandalism, theft, lightning, wind storms and hail damage. Always check with your insurance company for a complete list of what perils are covered.
Remember to let your insurance company know ahead of time if you are planning to leave your home vacant for a long period. Your local agent will be able to give you more details on if you need vacant home insurance, how long it will need to be in place and what it will cover. Also, depending on the company’s rules, your insurance company may not require you to add vacant home insurance coverage if you let them know well in advance, have a family member or friends regularly checking on your home or have security and safety features and systems in place.
Whether you are going out of town for a few days or a month, taking preventative measures to protect your home can let you leave with peace of mind. Check out our helpful suggestions for your condo, and your home or apartment as well, the next time you have somewhere else to be.