3 Things You Need To Know About Insuring An Empty House

Homeowners insurance is vitally important for protecting your home from weather damage, vandalism, and theft. But did you know that your insurance may not cover you if you leave your home empty? Whether you're a snowbird spending your winter months in another state, or a seller who moved to your new home before the old one was sold, if you currently have a property that's standing empty, you may be at more risk than you know. Take a look at some things you should know about homeowner's insurance for empty houses.

Leaving Your Home Unoccupied Can Void Your Existing Coverage

If you have a typical homeowner's insurance policy, it probably contains a clause voiding your coverage if you leave the home empty for a certain amount of time – for example, 30 days or 60 days.

These clauses are included because unoccupied homes are at greater risk for fires and floods with no one living there to spot a malfunctioning appliance, take precautions to protect the home from environmental risks like hurricanes, or call the fire department in a timely manner. Empty homes are also common targets for vandals and thieves.

You Can't Fake Living There

It's easy to think that you can just claim to have been living there if you have to file a claim for damage that occurred while your house was unoccupied. However, you'll only get away with that if you never actually have to file a claim.

While the insurance company probably isn't going to drop by and check on you if nothing goes wrong, you can be certain that if you file a claim, they'll investigate. They can determine whether or not you were living in the house at the time of the damage in multiple ways – they may check your utility bills or even interview your neighbors. If you don't want to end up paying for any damage to your home out of your own pocket, don't try to get away with this.

You Have Options

Obviously, you need some type of insurance on your home, empty or not. You have a couple of options. One is to simply purchase vacant home insurance. This is more expensive than typical homeowner's insurance – the price is reflective of the increased risk that accompanies empty homes.

However, if you need to save money, you do have other options. In most cases, your home won't be considered unoccupied if you leave it in the care of a house sitter – you may be able to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement with someone you know who needs temporary housing. Another option is to ask your insurance agent what you can do to avoid voiding your coverage. Some insurance companies will grant you an exclusion if you're taking care of the home – for example, if you live in the same town as the home you're selling, and you check on it frequently, or if you hire a caretaker to maintain the home while you're away.

Insuring a vacant home is just as important as insuring the home that you're currently occupying. If you're unsure about whether or not your long vacation or other living situation violates the terms of your homeowners insurance policy, it's time to get out your policy and give your insurance agent a call.