Sometimes the housing market is hard when you’re trying to sell your home. Sometimes, you may need to move out of your house for an extended period of time. Regardless of your situation, you may need to leave your home for quite a while. Unfortunately, your regular home insurance usually won’t cover a home you’re not living in. But if there’s no one to watch or check up on the property and it’s not insured, how can you protect it from vandalism, theft, or any other sort of disaster? Find out here.
What’s the difference between an unoccupied and a vacant home?
First, it’s important to define the difference between a vacant and an unoccupied home. (Yes, it can matter to your insurance company.) An unoccupied home is one where there’s furniture in the house, the utilities are turned on, and the place is generally ready for anyone to turn the key and live in.
A vacant house is one where the lights are not on and nobody’s home. There’s no furniture to see, the utilities are turned off, and the house is pretty much the husk of a building with no one living in it.
When is my house considered unoccupied or vacant?
It’s important to talk to your insurance agent, then, about the amount of time your policy will cover between each tenant living in the house. Usually, normal home insurance policies can cover an unoccupied home for 30-60 days after someone moves out.
However, if you’re on an extended vacation, going through long-term medical treatment where you’re away from your house, or having renovations done where you can’t physically stay in your house, your insurance policy may include a clause that will allow your coverage to continue through your life event.
On the other hand, if you’re having trouble selling your house when you’ve already moved out, most home insurance policies will have certain exclusions for vacant properties once the time limit is up.
Why won’t my regular home insurance cover a vacant house?
The reason why is risk. Vacant homes create what is called an “attractive nuisance.” A vacant house can present golden opportunities for vandals and thieves. It can also present opportunities for people to get hurt or bring down neighborhood value.
Insurance companies prepare for the worst. In a house where no one is there to keep an eye on things, an unattended electrical fire could break out, a vandal could create an eyesore on your walls, or the neighborhood kids could break an arm in their new “playhouse.” Carriers don’t want to take on the same risks for a vacant house as they do for a property that has someone keeping an eye on the things that could go wrong.
Can’t I just tell my insurance that I am still living in the house?
You may be thinking, “Why can’t I just tell them that I’m still living there?” Well, if there is a disaster that takes out your house, your neighborhood or town will look to you to fix the damages. If someone is hurt on your property, it’s you that the injured person can decide to sue.
Whether you’re living in the home or not, it’s still your responsibility, and if the property is not properly covered, you’ll be stuck footing the bill yourself. Plus, if something happens and your carrier finds out that you weren’t occupying the building, they could very well drop your coverage or consider you as a case of insurance fraud.
How do I insure my vacant or unoccupied house?
While insurance companies aren’t eager to take on the risks of a vacant building on a general policy, it can be rather easy to get additional coverage for the building.
Some insurance companies will just let you add a low-cost endorsement to your existing home insurance policy. Some carriers require you to get an entirely separate policy (which means you can probably just change your insurance for that property from a regular insurance policy to a vacant home policy.) Either type of coverage will usually only kick in after the home has been vacant for 30 days and can cover the home up to a year.
If your current carrier doesn’t offer these options, it’s completely fine to ask your agent for recommendations. Whether you go with a specialty insurance company that your agent recommends or one that you find, do your research before getting their policy. Make sure they’re a reputable company. (The easiest way to check can be by checking their A.M. credit rating or BBB ratings.)
How much does vacant home insurance cost?
Since you’re not actually occupying the house that you’re insuring, vacant home insurance works a bit differently than a regular home insurance policy. If you’re considering an endorsement, most additions like this can cost under $100/month. Otherwise, insuring your vacant home can depend on:
- The location of your home
- The amount of coverage you need
- The fire and weather-resistance of your home
- Other risks that your specific home faces.
This is why it’s important to sit down with your agent and be straightforward with the conditions of your home and the types of risks you’re worried about. Your agent will make sure that your new coverage won’t violate your current contract with them and that you’ll have the right coverage while you’re away.
Our insurance agents are experts at finding the right vacant home coverage for your specific home. We’ll help you find multiple quotes on the coverage and rates that work for you while you’re transitioning into your new stage of life. To get started, just give us a call or fill out our easy online form!