Did you know that a typical homeowner’s insurance policy ends once the property is vacant for more than thirty days? Most homeowners don’t know this and they continue to pay their premium. If a claim is filed, however, it may not be paid because vacancy voids the policy.
If you leave a home vacant, you must have vacancy insurance. Premiums for this type of insurance can be more than double regular insurance. Even many landlord policies have vacancy limitations so, no matter what type of property you own, know what your policy terms are.
It’s understandable that insurance companies put a higher risk (and cost) on insuring vacant homes because of the increased risk of theft, vandalism, fire and water damage. These risks and costs may be even higher in northern states because of potential damage due to extreme weather (frozen pipes bursting,etc.).
If you need to move on but your home has not sold, it may be cheaper and safer to keep your “for sale” home occupied. Before you or your tenant move out, take a look at your policy and talk with your insurance agent for guidance.
Some suggestions about your vacant property:
- Install and use a monitored home security system.
- Make sure all smoke detectors are functioning.
- If your home has a sprinkler system, monitored central alarm for fire, smoke and theft and deadbolt locks, your home is safer and often these features often lower your insurance premiums.
- Make the house look lived-in. It’s always best to stop mail and other deliveries anytime you’re away but, if you can’t, have someone bring in any mail and packages. Ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway. Install timers on lights and leave window coverings and some furniture in the home.
- If possible, don’t move out until you’ve sold the home or perhaps someone in the family can stay behind or live there occasionally until the home is sold.
- Rent out the home. Not only will the home be lived in but the rent will help cover your carrying costs. In this case, you will need to change your homeowners insurance policy to a landlord policy which is actually cheaper than vacant home insurance.
- Hire a house-sitter or let someone you trust live there until it’s sold.
- Keep the home maintained by cleaning the yard and gutters, trimming trees, checking for leaks, shoveling the sidewalks and driveway and winterizing as necessary.
Make sure any property you own is protected, and check with your agent to see how long the coverage lasts if no one is living there. The last thing you want is to file a claim and find out it’s not covered because the vacancy exceeded the maximum number of days allowed by your insurance policy.
What’s been your experience with vacant houses?