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Vacant Home Insurance: Coverage for Unoccupied Properties

Vacant home insurance is needed if your house sits empty for more than 30 days. If you and your family go on your annual vacation, that likely would not be considered vacant. However, it could be vacant if you put your home up for sale and remove all your belongings or if you rent your home and are between tenants.

Your insurance policy that covers your home has a specific amount of time that your house can sit empty before it is considered vacant. Once that time has been reached, any claim will be denied. This is where vacant home insurance comes into play.

What is Vacant Home Insurance?

Usually, a home is considered vacant if it is unoccupied for more than 30 or 60 days. In that case, you will need vacant home insurance. Homeowners insurance policies will have an exclusion for your home if it has been unoccupied for an extended time. Most often, that time is 60 days, but some policies have even less time allotted for a vacancy. Hence, if you want to ensure your claims are covered, you should have vacant home insurance if you move out for any reason or take an extended vacation. 

Vacant Home vs. Unoccupied Home Insurance 

While it may seem like vacant and unoccupied are the same, that’s not always the case in the insurance world. Some insurance carriers will say a home is unoccupied if your personal belongings are still there, and it is obvious you intend to return in a short time. Vacant is usually indicated by being completed void of personal belonging, and there is no intent to return. 

Some other differences may include utilities, where a vacant home could have them turned off, but an unoccupied one does not. Sometimes, occupied homes have renovations going on, where a vacant home is awaiting sale or a tenant. 

Vacant Home Insurance
Unoccupied Home Insurance
There are no personal items in the home 
Personal belongings are still present
Utilities paused or completely turned off
Typical utilities, like electricity and water, are still on 
No one lives in the home
Someone is living in the home or plans to as soon as possible
Home is for sale or awaiting a yet-to-be-determined tenant (remember there is a 30 to 60-day window)
A lease or purchase agreement has been executed, but occupants have not moved in yet

How Does Vacant Home Insurance Work? 

Vacant home insurance will work similarly to homeowners insurance. At the time of purchase, you and your insurer will agree on a coverage amount for the home. Depending on the type of policy, this could be replacement cost or actual cash value. You will also select a deductible, which is your responsibility at the time of a claim. When choosing a deductible, be sure to pick a limit you can afford at any given time. 

If you should have a claim, you will contact your insurer and report it, providing as much detail as possible. Take photos and video if you can, and be sure to document everything. 

What Does Vacant Home Insurance Cover? 

Vacant home insurance may not cover all of the same perils as a homeowners insurance policy, so you must read your policy thoroughly. Vacant home insurance often only covers fire, lightning, and wind. However, some policies will offer more perils. 

Many vacant home insurance policies will exclude theft and vandalism because, unfortunately, that is a high risk for many vacant homes. Also, liability insurance, or insurance for when someone is injured on your premises and may bring a lawsuit against you, is often not included in a vacant home policy so it is critical coverage you should obtain.

Vacant Home Insurance vs. Standard Home Insurance 

A homeowners insurance policy covers occupied homes, usually a primary residence where you and your family live full time. The perils insured against are often plentiful unless expressly excluded. A standard homeowners insurance policy will also provide liability coverage, including bodily injury and property damage to others by you.

A vacant home policy will provide more basic coverage for fewer perils. It’s more likely that your home will sustain damage from specific hazards, such as house fires and burst pipes, if it’s vacant for lengthy periods. The chances of burglary and vandalism are also higher in unoccupied homes, which is why it is most often excluded. 

How Much Does Vacant Home Insurance Cost? 

The first thing to note about vacant home insurance is that it will almost always be more expensive than a standard home insurance policy. There is a wide range of costs associated with vacant home insurance policies, depending on the company, the policy, and the risk level of the property.  

The average premium of an annual vacant home policy is 1.5 – 3 times more than your average homeowners insurance policy for an occupied home. The good news is that usually, a home will not be vacant for an entire year, so you won’t have to pay for an annual policy. 

Who Should Consider Vacant Home Insurance? 

Many people need vacant home insurance and often don’t even know it. While each homeowners insurance policy will have different exclusions, many will say 30 or 60 days of vacancy. So, if you plan a vacation for 30 days or more, check with your insurer.

Moving is fun, but you should consider vacant home insurance if you plan to sell your home. You never know how long your home could be on the market, and it is better to be safe than sorry. The same goes if you are a landlord looking for a new tenant.

You may need vacant home insurance if you purchase a vacation home and have no plans to rent it out. Even if you plan to move into a newly purchased home but can’t for a few weeks, you should consider purchasing a vacant home policy. 

When to Consider Vacant vs. Unoccupied Home Insurance 

Sometimes, you can have an occupied home insurance endorsement on your home policy, which provides the same perils and liability, but accounts for that 30 or 60-day exclusion. If you have personal belongings in the home and are getting ready to move in soon, unoccupied home insurance could work for you.

Perhaps you are taking an extended vacation but will return before the standard 60-day mark for a homeowners exclusion. It would be a safe bet to purchase an occupied endorsement on your policy. 

Insurance Consideration
Vacant or Unoccupied Insurance?
Taking an extended trip means you may need additional coverage, which could be in the form of an endorsement.
Depending on the length of time for renovations to be completed, you may need an occupied endorsement or a vacant policy.
Unoccupied or vacant
The homeowner is deceased, the home is for sale
If you put your home up for sale, or the owner of the home is a deceased family member, and you are handling the sale, a vacant home policy is recommended.
Vacation Home
Many people split their time between multiple homes, often as the seasons change. Usually, you can purchase a seasonal policy, but you may need to consider an unoccupied endorsement.

When and How to Buy Vacant Home Insurance 

As with a standard home insurance policy, purchasing a vacant home insurance policy is the same process. Your current insurer is the best place to start. It’s possible that your insurer will have an endorsement they can add to your policy, or they can help your purchase a separate vacant policy and help to compare quotes and coverage options.

Once you have taken the time to compare a couple of options and decide which is best for your unique situation, you will submit your application and likely make a down payment. If you choose to pay in full and end up not needing the entire term, you may be entitled to a refund, depending on the policy provisions. 

How To Prepare A Home For Vacancy 

Of course, the first step to preparing to leave your home for a vacancy is ensuring you have the proper insurance. Once that step is complete, you can make sure your home is ready. Leave it in the best condition possible to avoid a claim.

Ensuring you have the right type of insurance is the best thing you can do to prepare your home for a vacancy. If you need to purchase a vacant home policy, make sure you also obtain liability insurance if the policy does not provide that.

What To Do

Make sure your exterior continues to be maintained, such as mowing the grass and ensuring no trash is left behind. Keep your utilities on, and if you are in a position to do so, install security cameras, even if it is just a doorbell that records motion. Take anything of value with you, even if you plan to return, since theft and vandalism are a risk for any vacant property.

Another great thing you can do if you plan to leave your home vacant for any period of time is to have someone check on it periodically if you are not able to do so yourself. Whether a friend or neighbor, checking in on things once a week would be beneficial.