Have you been stuck on lockdown away from your home? Are you travelling for a while, in long-term medical care, or have a holiday home you only spend some of your time in? If you own a home that is vacant or unoccupied for more than 60 days at any point, you should consider purchasing unoccupied home insurance to ensure your home and contents (and other assets) stay fully covered.
What is unoccupied home insurance?
When you leave your home empty, the risk of theft and structural damage increases. Robbers will watch to see if anyone is turning on lights in your home or going in and out. If not, it’s ripe for the picking. Furthermore, there’s no one there to smell smoke, close up the home against natural disasters, find a leaking or broken pipe, or report other issues with the house.
That’s why most standard homeowners policies will cancel or pause your policy if your home is vacant for more than 60 days or sometimes even 30 days. They don’t want to assume the higher risk that comes with a vacant house.
That means your empty home is not only at a higher risk of damage and theft—but it’s also not covered by your insurance.
Unoccupied home insurance is a specific homeowners policy that applies to homes that are left vacant for more than 60 days and no longer qualify for standard home insurance.
Who needs unoccupied home insurance?
Some scenarios when your home might be left vacant for more than 60 days can include:
- Your property is for sale and you’ve already moved into new home
- You’ve just purchased a new property and don’t plan on moving into that home for a few months
- This house not your main place of residence, like a holiday home, that’s left empty for some or most of the year
- Your home is being renovated and it’s not safe to live in now
- You’ll be travelling for a long period of time
- You’ve been placed in long-term medical care and no one will be living in the house
- You are living in another residence, like your parents house, during the COVID-19 pandemic
- You are a landlord of a home or apartment(s) and you are in-between tenants
- You’re awaiting a probate for an inherited residence
If you are in any situation where your home will be left vacant for more than a couple months, unoccupied home insurance is highly recommended. It’s usually not required by the law, although some states require all homes to have liability insurance and some homeowners lenders and financers may require full homeowners coverage regardless of residency status.
Even if your state and/or lender don’t require insurance on a vacant home, it’s very smart to purchase it anyway. As we discussed, the risk of theft, vandalism, squatters, and structural damage dramatically increases in a vacant home. There’s no one there to keep an eye on everything, so things are more likely to go wrong. If your homeowners insurance is cancelled after 60 days vacancy, you would be left with all that risk and no one there to protect you.
Unoccupied home insurance is there to protect your home, assets, and liability when your house is at its most vulnerable.
Note: Do not try to trick your insurance company by pretending you live in a vacant house to keep coverage. If they find out, and they’ll likely cancel your policy and refuse to payout any claims.
What does unoccupied home insurance cover?
Unoccupied home insurance is similar to a standard home insurance, but it may have more exclusions that you’ll want to keep an eye on.
When looking into an unoccupied home insurance policy, make sure it includes the following named perils:
- Storms, windstorms, hail
- Fire, lightning, explosion
- Water damage (including leaks and burst pipes)
- Theft or attempted theft
Two other types of insurance that are really important, but often overlooked, when it comes to unoccupied home insurance are public liability and legal expenses.
Public liability insurance comes in to play if your home damages another person’s property. For example, if a tree branch from your property falls on a neighbor’s car, or if you have a burst pipe that causes a flood on your neighbor’s landscaping. This is a higher risk when you’re not there, so public liability can ensure you’re not stuck with a significant bill.
Make sure you also have regular homeowners liability insurance included as well. This is necessary in case a squatter or vandal gets injured on your property. (Even if they were on your property illegally, they could sue you for damages!)
Legal expenses can help cover legal fees if you have to remove squatters or trespassers from your vacant home. This can be a huge issue, especially if your home is left empty for a while, and the resources to fight squatters can be arduous and costly. You’ll definitely want to make sure legal expenses would be covered in your unoccupied home insurance.
If your home has any belongings in it, make sure you have an updated home inventory list for contents’ coverage as well. Not all unoccupied home insurance includes contents’ coverage, so you’ll want to ensure your agent adds it on to your policy if you are keeping possessions (furniture, electronics, clothing, jewelry, etc.) in the house.
Unoccupied home insurance exclusions
Common exclusions from unoccupied home insurance include:
- Unforced entry (if you leave windows or doors open/unlocked)
- Construction (if the home is going through major construction, your insurer might not cover any claims, so be sure to work with them to find fair coverage)
- Contractors (make sure any contractors have their own insurance, because your policy likely won’t cover any damages or liabilities of your contractor)
Also, some policies may include flood, but with the increasing risk of flood across the country, most insurance agents are excluding flood. We highly recommend you purchase a separate flood insurance policy and let your agent know it’s for an unoccupied house, so they can make sure you’re fully covered.
How much does unoccupied home insurance cost?
Unoccupied home insurance may cost more than standard home insurance because of the elevated risks for theft and serious damage. However, it highly varies based on your provider, policy, and limits.
Some of the factors that influence the cost of unoccupied home insurance:
- The cost to rebuild your home (dwelling coverage)
- The value of your belongings (contents’ coverage)
- Additional structures on property
- Property location (is there a high risk of theft and/or natural disasters)
- Security features on property (installing alarm system and other security features may lower your insurance premiums)
- Property maintenance (costs could be lower if you have someone checking on the house regularly and/or if you do regular maintenance checks and fixes)
- Level of coverage (the higher your limits and the more add-on policies, the higher your cost will be)
Although the cost of unoccupied home insurance varies, you can usually get shorter contracts than the typical one- or two-year contract with a standard homeowners policy. You may be able to sign up for three, six, nine, or twelve months, based on how long you expect your home to vacant. This is a highly specialized version of home insurance that’s both entirely inclusive of all your coverage needs while also available at a shorter contract length.
Not sure if you need unoccupied home insurance to protect your home, assets, and life? We can help! Chat with an InsuraMatch advisor to discuss your unique situation, and we’ll help you find the most comprehensive coverage at the right price for you.
Chat with one of our expert insurance advisors at (844) 824-2887 today.
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