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Vacant Home Insurance protects your property from theft and vandalism while the house is empty. Here's everything you need to know about the average cost, how to buy it and how to save on it.

Empty home insurance

If you leave your home for the weekend, you have the peace of mind of knowing that your homeowners insurance has your back if something goes wrong. That is probably also true if you take a vacation for a week or two.

But if you leave your home empty for a longer period, your homeowners insurance coverage might be in jeopardy.

"Many insurance policies have language that may limit coverage if a home is vacant," says Cate Paolino, director of public policy at the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.

Paolino notes that not all home policies are the same. They are worded differently and differ in terms of coverage, terms, conditions and limits. "These differences have meaning," she says.

Read on to learn more about how vacant homes can jeopardize your coverage – and what you must do to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • Home insurance companies will discontinue coverage on an unoccupied home after a period of time.
  • In many cases, home insurers won’t cover homes left empty for 30 or 60 days, depending on the policy.
  • Vacant home insurance coverage, which can be 50% to 60% more than a standard home insurance policy, helps to ensure your home is protected by insurance while you’re away from home.
  • Home insurance companies may offer separate vacant home insurance policies or let you add extra coverage on your standard homeowners insurance policy.

What is vacant or empty home insurance?

Vacant home insurance – sometimes known as empty home insurance – helps to make sure your homeowners insurance coverage remains in place even if you’re away from home for a long period and your home is unoccupied and vacant.

Typically, an insurance company discontinues coverage on a home if it’s unoccupied for a certain length of time. In many cases, this means a vacancy of more than 30 days or 60 days.

“While 30 days is often mentioned, it will be important to refer to your insurance policy and to speak with your agent or insurer to determine the exact length of time,” Paolino says.

Leave your home, or even vacation home, unoccupied for an extended period like this, and your house might not have any insurance coverage if it’s damaged or destroyed

Vacant home insurance coverage can help to ensure that insurance protects your home even if you’re away from home. But getting coverage for a vacant home can be difficult.

The Insurance Information Institute notes that some insurance companies will flat-out refuse to insure a vacant home because an unoccupied home poses a much bigger risk than an occupied home.

“Homes that are unoccupied or vacant often pose a higher risk because a problem -- like a burst water pipe or a break-in -- may go unnoticed,” Paolino says.

It’s important to note that the words “vacant” and “unoccupied” aren’t always synonymous.

“Insurers may sometimes define or describe in their policies the difference between a vacant home and an unoccupied home,” Paolino says. 

She says that if no one is in the home but the contents or personal property remain inside -- such as when you are traveling -- the home might be considered “unoccupied.”

However, if no one is living in the home -- and it lacks a typical amount of personal property inside -- the home might be considered “vacant.”

"It may not need to be totally devoid of personal property to be considered vacant,” Paolino says. “Again, it’s important to check your actual policy wording.

Vacant or Unoccupied Home Insurance
Unoccupied homeVacant home

Suitable for occupation.

Owner's personal property remains inside, the utilities are on and appliances are functioning.

Home renovation is limited enough that the furniture and other personal property can be left behind.

You're on vacation or in the hospital.

Personal property removed.

Utilities may be shut off. This is more common when the property is on the market or being rented.

Vacant homes pose significantly higher risk to insurers. The price and coverage of vacant home insurance reflects this.

Why is vacant home coverage different from other home insurance?

Vacant home coverage is different from other home insurance policies for a variety of reasons. Vacant properties are not secure, which means they are more likely to be vandalized or broken into.

A vacant home can be a tempting target for vandals and thieves. But what about the risks of severe weather? When you're not at home, your house is more vulnerable to damage from storms that could leak or break pipes causing water damage.

Vacant property insurance covers unoccupied homes against fire, storm, vandalism or other unanticipated losses that may occur during the time they are unoccupied.

What does vacant home insurance cover?

A vacant home insurance policy typically protects you from many perils you would expect any homeowners policy to cover. Insurance covers damage associated with: 

  • Fire
  • Wind
  • Explosions
  • Lightning
  • Hail

However, coverage may not extend to other perils normally included in a homeowners policy. For example, you may not be protected from theft, vandalism and water damage (such as from a burst pipe).

Some insurers offer options that can extend the range of your coverage -- such as offering liability coverage in case someone is hurt on your now-vacant property -- but you have to pay for that privilege.

How much does vacant home insurance cost?

You might end up paying 50% to 60% more for unoccupied home insurance than you would an occupied home, according to the Insurance Information Institute. 

“Because the risk to the home and personal property may be higher while you are away, the cost of insurance coverage may be higher as well,” Paolino says.

It’s possible that arranging for someone to check on the property regularly could help you get a lower premium, the III notes.

How to buy vacant home insurance

Buying vacant property insurance isn’t that different from buying a standard home insurance policy. 

1. Compare vacant home insurance policy quotes

Start by asking your current home insurance company if it offers vacant home endorsements for your existing policy. Some insurers will do this, but others require a separate policy.

If you're getting a new policy, get quotes from at least three vacant property insurance providers and then make a decision based on cost, company reputation, coverage offered and areas where they offer coverage.

Make sure you review the exact coverage provided by each insurer to be sure you’re comparing identical coverages. For instance, one provider may only offer actual cash value replacement on the structure, while another may provide full replacement cost coverage. 

2. Choose a policy

Choose your vacant home insurance provider based on the coverage it offers, the coverage cost and if it provides coverage in your desired area.

3. Apply for vacant home insurance

Once you’ve decided on a vacant house insurance provider, Allison Bethell, a real estate agent and real estate investor based in Florida, who flips houses, says you typically need the following documents when applying for vacant home insurance:

  • Proof of ownership: Deed or settlement sheet
  • Identification: Driver’s license or passport
  • Insurance policy: Past policies if you insured this property with another provider previously
  • Property value: This can be from an appraisal or an estimate on your home value you do yourself
  • Vacancy timeline: The insurance provider wants to know how long the property has been vacant or unoccupied and when it will be occupied again; proof may be requested in the form of a lease

Best vacant home insurance companies for 2021

Some insurance companies are reluctant to insure a vacant home. But others advertise their willingness to provide coverage to homeowners in this situation. 

Here are three vacant home insurance company options:

  • American Family Insurance sells vacant home insurance plans that it says are customized to meet a homeowner's needs. American Family Insurance offers a basic vacant home insurance coverage, but you also can add coverage for personal property, including equipment you use to maintain the property. Policies are available in lengths such as three-, six- or 12-month terms.
  • Farmers sells vacant home insurance coverage. It offers a 12-month policy that can be prorated if you cancel before a full year is up. You can even purchase coverage to protect you in the event of vandalism or malicious mischief.
  • Foremost also offers vacant home insurance coverage. You can purchase it for one year, and it can be renewed for up to four years. Homes valued up to $1 million are eligible for coverage. It offers prorated cancellation. Foremost pledges that in the event of a covered loss, you’ll get the amount of insurance for your residence that’s listed on your policy after your deductible.

When you need vacant/unoccupied/empty home insurance

If you plan to leave your home vacant for an extended period, talk to your insurance agent about how to ensure the home is covered during your absence.

“It may be that an endorsement or an amendment to your existing policy could be purchased to add such coverage,” Paolino says. “Or, you may need to buy a separate policy.“

As a general rule, you should look into vacant home insurance coverage in any situation in which your home might be vacant for longer than 30 days. Remember, if you leave your home empty for longer than that, your regular homeowners insurance policy might not cover any damages that occur to your home.

Examples of situations where you might need vacant home insurance include situations where the home is empty due to: 

  • Renovation or remodel of your home
  • Extended travel
  • Selling your home
  • Moving out of your home and into another home

In some cases, your current homeowners insurance company will issue a vacancy permit that provides some limited but important types of coverage, such as damage from fire or wind, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

However, other perils won’t be included in such coverage, such as:

  • Theft
  • Glass breakage
  • Water damage

To obtain even this limited coverage, you typically must make your request before the home has been vacant for 30 days. Of course, the rules differ by insurer, so contact your insurance company to find out more about its requirements.

“Check with your insurer or agent to discuss your situation,” Paolino says. “It may be that an endorsement or an amendment to your existing policy or a different policy altogether could be purchased to provide the appropriate coverage.”

When you might need vacant home insurance

There are various reasons a property might be empty, and each scenario may have a different insurance solution.

Insurance options for vacant property
ScenarioInsurance options for vacant homes

Dividing time: primary and vacation home

Many insurers offer special seasonal and vacation home coverage for your vacation property, but you may also need additional coverage for the unoccupied primary residence. Consider a packaged deal that covers your part-time residency in two or more homes.

Medical treatment

Extended recovery from an accident, illness or surgical procedure may require you to be away from home for weeks. Ask a family member with power of attorney to check with your insurance company about what arrangements may be necessary while you are away.

Renovating

If renovations require you to move out, contact your agent about your coverage. Construction sites create special hazards. They can be very attractive to thieves who steal everything from light fixtures to appliances to copper wire and pipes. Building materials and equipment, as well as the normal disarray of home remodeling can also increase your liability risk.

Renting or selling

Rental homes can be empty for some time while owners clean and repair the property, advertise the rental and screen potential tenants. "Most insurance companies require either an endorsement or a separate, new home insurance policy for a dwelling left vacant while the owners try to rent or sell it," says Russ Dubisky, executive director of the South Carolina Insurance News Service.

Traveling

Homeowners who take extended trips may need to purchase an endorsement that provides additional coverage for their unoccupied residence.

Address anticipated scenarios with your insurance agent before your home is empty. You don't want to find out later that a claim won't be paid or that your insurer won't renew your policy.

How to save on unoccupied and vacant home insurance?

If your home is unoccupied or vacant and you are planning to buy insurance for vacant home, make sure you look at all possible ways to save on your unoccupied house insurance.

You can have your friend or neighbor check on your property occasionally. It will help convince your insurance provider that your home is not vacant or unoccupied.

Another way to save money is to get a discount on your homeowners insurance by installing an alarm system and taking other security measures. However, the availability of these discounts varies from company to company. You can discuss it with your insurer as it can save you hundreds of dollars on your insurance policy.

How to protect your vacant property after moving?

If you are moving out of your home and leaving it vacant for any period of time, make sure that your property is protected. Vacant properties can be susceptible to vandalism or theft if not properly protected, so it's important to take the necessary steps to ensure that your property is safe and secure.

Maintain the exterior of your home-

Don't let your property slip into disarray. Make sure to get those pesky plants trimmed and have someone mow the lawn for you, or in winter, shovel that driveway before any more damage can happen due to snowfall. Also make sure all the exterior lights are completely functional, so people don't think no one's home.

Install security equipment-

Keep your home secure by adding motion-sensor lights and entry alarms. Trim bushes to remove potential hiding places for burglars, close curtains or blinds during the day hours to prevent unwanted peering eyes from looking in.

Take the valuables with you-

Make sure you take all the valuable items with you. If you don't need things like furniture, electronics, expensive art etc., you can either sell them or put them for rent.

Get vacant property insurance

The best thing to do is protect your vacant home with vacant property insurance. It safeguards your home against losses like vandalism, theft, and even weather damage. Vacant home insurance can be a lifesaver if someone breaks into your property or causes damage while you're not there.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can a house be vacant for insurance?

The precise amount of time your home can be vacant and remain covered varies by insurer. However, as a general rule, your home should remain insured for up to 30 days of vacancy, according to the Insurance Information Institute. 

Some companies might give you up to 60 days of vacancy. However, if you plan to leave your home vacant for an extended period, it’s crucial that you talk to your home insurer or agent and find out its own rules for how long a home can be vacant and remain insured. 

“Requirements for continuing coverage depend on the terms of a policy,” Paolino says. “There is no substitute for familiarity with the coverage requirements outlined in the policy.

Will your home insurance cover your home if you set it up as an Airbnb?

If you're thinking about renting out your empty home as a way to make extra income, don't assume you'll be covered. Instead, check with your home insurance provider.  

Many home insurance companies that offer coverage for short-term stays limit them to four weeks or less. Review your homeowner's policy carefully before signing up to share your home. Some home policies that cover short-term rentals require advance notification.

Discuss renting out your home with Airbnb, or a similar company, with your home insurance company, so there are no surprises if a claim needs to be made.

Can you get insurance for an unoccupied house?

Yes, you can get insurance for an unoccupied house. If your home is vacant or unoccupied for more than 30 days, you can inform your insurance company and get unoccupied home insurance to protect your property.

Is vacant home insurance more expensive?

Vacant home insurance is more expensive than what you would pay for a regular homeowners policy. According to Insurance Information Institute, you might pay 50% to 60% more for insurance if your home is unoccupied.

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