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Vacant home insurance: What is it and who needs it

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    If you’re away from home for a long vacation, extended renovation or you’ve yet to move into your new place, it’s nice to have some assurance that your property remains protected. Vacant home insurance might provide some peace of mind that, no matter what happens to your home in your absence, there are safeguards in place. But how does vacant home insurance work and what exactly does it cover?

    What is vacant home insurance?

    Vacant home insurance, also known as vacant property insurance or vacant homeowners insurance, is a specialized type of insurance coverage designed to protect homes that are uninhabited for an extended period. Unlike regular homeowners insurance, vacant home insurance caters to some of the unique risks associated with empty properties.

    Your homeowners insurance policy will typically consider your property vacant when it’s left for 30 days or more. In this event, certain aspects of your standard homeowners insurance policy may become void and you won’t be covered if something goes wrong. This is where vacant home insurance comes in.

    Note that your policy premium may depend on whether your property is categorized as “vacant” or “unoccupied.” A home is usually considered vacant when there is no one there and no personal property inside. It is usually considered unoccupied when there is no one living there, but it still contains personal items.

    Why do you need vacant home insurance?

    Vacant homes can be especially vulnerable to certain risks. From theft and vandalism to fire and weather-related damage — without anybody there to supervise, minor issues can quickly balloon into major problems with potentially long-term consequences for your property.

    Vacant home insurance is designed to provide some level of mitigation if you’re away from your property for an extended period and something goes wrong. For example, minor electrical issues or plumbing problems could deteriorate without anyone noticing, allowing damage to build up. Or vandals may target your home knowing that the likelihood of being caught is lower compared to an occupied property.

    Who needs vacant home insurance?

    Vacant property insurance may not be needed every time your home is unoccupied. Instead, it often depends on the length of time you expect to be away, the level of supervision of the property during that time and the likelihood of adverse events. Let’s look at a few common situations where vacant property insurance might be worth considering:

    • Extended vacations: If you plan to be away from your home for a month or more, your property might be considered unoccupied and vulnerable to some of the adverse outcomes mentioned above.
    • Property renovations: Major home renovations might require your property to be vacated for an extended period for construction work, leaving your home exposed during off-hours.
    • Rental vacancies: If you’re a landlord with a secondary residence, there’s a possibility your property goes unoccupied for 30 days or more when searching for a new tenant. Vacant property insurance might help safeguard the property during this time.
    • Selling a property: Similar to rental vacancies, selling a home can take time and may leave the property vacant or unoccupied for extended periods.

    What does vacant home insurance cover?

    As discussed earlier, vacant home insurance is designed to cover a variety of risks to which unoccupied properties are vulnerable. While the specifics of coverage will typically differ between insurance providers and policies, some common coverages you can expect are:

    • Vandalism: Since vacant homes can be attractive to vandals, vacant homeowners insurance often covers the expense of repairs related to graffiti, broken windows and other property damage commonly caused by vandalism.
    • Theft: Similarly, unoccupied homes might be more vulnerable to break-ins and theft. Vacant home insurance will often offer some level of protection against theft of items from the property and property damage caused during a break-in.
    • Natural disasters: Many vacant homeowners insurance policies cover damage caused by weather and natural disasters, such as storms, wind, hail and lightning. Checking with your insurance provider, however, may provide further clarity on what kinds of damage are covered. Some policies may require supplemental coverage for certain events, such as flooding or earthquakes.
    • Fire: Vacant homes may be more vulnerable to serious fire damage because, in the event of a fire, there’s no one home to catch it early. These circumstances make fire a common coverage area for many vacant insurance policies.

    How to obtain vacant home insurance

    Not all insurance policies for vacant homes may suit your needs. Whether it’s for your first or second home, here are some tips that may help you navigate the process of choosing the right vacant home insurance for your property:

    Research insurance providers

    Researching different insurance providers may highlight which ones have strong reputations and good reviews, indicating a positive track record with past customers.

    Compare quotes

    Once you’ve identified potential insurance providers, consider requesting quotes from multiple companies. The cheapest option may not always provide the most comprehensive coverage; taking time to consider your needs could help narrow down those policies that best match your situation.

    Review policy terms

    Taking care to ensure you’ve fully understood the terms and conditions of each vacant home insurance policy can alert you to coverage limits, exclusions and any specific requirements or conditions that may apply. You might consider reaching out to the insurance provider to help clarify any terms you’re having trouble understanding.

    In summary

    If your property is going to be left unsupervised for an extended period, important parts of your homeowners insurance coverage may become void. In this case, it may be worth considering vacant home insurance, designed to cover the adverse events to which vacant homes are often more vulnerable, such as fire, weather, vandalism and theft. Whichever policy you choose, researching and comparing reputable insurance providers can help you make an informed decision about the vacant home insurance best suited to help provide peace of mind while you’re away.

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