Vacant and unoccupied home insurance: what is it and do I need it?

If you own a house that is vacant for weeks or months at a time, you’ll need vacant and unoccupied homeowners insurance to financially protect the home against property damage and theft.

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Homeowners insurance helps cover the cost of property damage and theft to your home, but that coverage may not extend to a house that has been vacant for lengthy periods of time. In fact, a standard home insurance policy explicitly states that residences are not covered against theft and vandalism if they’ve been vacant for more than 60 days.

The reason for this is simple: Homeowners insurance is designed to cover primary residences, or homes that are occupied full time. If your home is vacant for weeks or months on end, then it’s at heightened risk of sustained damage from certain hazards like house fires and burst pipes, since no one is home to report the damage or alert the authorities. Unoccupied homes are also more susceptible to burglary and vandalism.

If you own a house that is vacant for more than 30–60 days, you’ll need to purchase vacant and unoccupied homeowners insurance to be securely covered. Vacant home insurance is a  type of specialty coverage that insurers write specifically for homes which are unoccupied for an extended period.

Key Takeaways

  • Homeowners insurance financially protects your home against hazards like fire, weather damage, and theft, but that coverage isn’t intended for homes that are vacant or unoccupied

  • Insurers won’t knowingly cover a vacant dwelling under standard homeowners insurance. If it’s discovered during a claim or otherwise that your home was vacant for longer than 30–60 days, your policy may be canceled

  • If your home is vacant or unoccupied for more than 30–60 days, you’ll need vacant home insurance to be adequately covered

What is vacant and unoccupied home insurance?

Vacant and unoccupied home insurance is a type of niche homeowners insurance product that is designed to cover homes that are uninhabited for months at a time. If you plan on moving out of your house before selling it, for example, you’ll need to take out a vacant and unoccupied home insurance policy on the residence to be fully covered.

Depending on the insurer, vacant and unoccupied homeowners insurance can be purchased as a standalone policy or added as a coverageendorsementto your homeowners insurance for an additional premium. If you’re purchasing a separate policy, you’ll need to cancel your current homeowners insurance so that you’re not paying for two policies on the home. Vacant home insurance usually comes with flexible policy terms ranging from three to 12 months.

In the event you’re gone for months and you don’t have vacant home insurance, your insurer may not cover your claim — that will ultimately be indicated within the fine print of your policy. A standard homeowners insurance policy specifically points out that homes vacant for more than 60 days are not covered for theft or vandalism, but it’s not uncommon for insurers to extend that exclusion to other causes of loss like fire and water damage. 

If your home is vacant and you never updated your coverage to vacant or unoccupied home insurance, it’s possible that you’ll still be covered for claims not related to theft and vandalism. Just bear in mind that your insurer will likely cancel your policy after that, as standard homeowners insurance is only designed for permanently occupied homes. 

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When do I need vacant and unoccupied home insurance?

If you’re planning on your home being empty or vacant for longer than 30–60 days, you’ll need vacant and unoccupied homeowners insurance to be sufficiently covered. There are several different scenarios you’d want to consider this type of policy for your house, including:

Your home is undergoing renovations

If you’re making some pretty drastic improvements to your home that requires you to move out for an extended stretch of time, contact your insurer to see if you need to modify your coverage. 

Homes undergoing renovations are attractive targets for burglars and are generally easier to break into, especially if your home is being remodeled and there’s potentially insecure points of entry. Homes undergoing renovations are also significant liability concerns for insurers, as building materials and scaffolding presents a risk of injury.

Keep in mind that insurance companies don’t consider homes “under construction” to be vacant. If your insurer classifies your home as under construction during a remodeling project, then you’ll need something like builders risk insurance, not vacant home insurance.

You’re renting or selling your house

If you moved out of your house before selling it, or you use the home as a rental property but it’s vacant during the off season, you’ll likely need speciality insurance protection like vacant home insurance to be properly covered. 

You use the house as a vacation home

If you only use the home as a vacation getaway or a secondary home for a few months out of the year, you’ll likely purchase what is referred to as second home insurance. But if you’re not able to travel in a given year because of, say, a global pandemic, and don’t anticipate you’ll be using the property for an extended period, contact your insurer to see if you need a more specialized policy to cover the vacant premises. 

You’re undergoing medical treatment that requires you to be in the hospital

If you anticipate that you’ll be in the hospital for weeks or potentially months because of a medical procedure, you may want to look into vacant home insurance while you’re away. Be sure to first talk to your insurer about your predicament — they may simply allow you to keep your standard policy on the home.

How to buy vacant and unoccupied home insurance

Vacant and unoccupied homeowners insurance can typically be purchased through your current home insurance company, either by taking out a separate policy or adding a vacant home insurance add-on to your current policy. 

Standard homeowners insurance with State Farm, for example, won’t cover homes that have been uninhabited for more than 30 days, however they do offer a vacancy endorsement that you can easily add to your policy, and then cancel upon returning or selling the home. 

How much does vacant and unoccupied home insurance cost?

While rates will vary from insurer to insurer, you can generally expect to pay anywhere from 25–50% more for vacant home insurance than you would for standard home insurance, according to Policygenius experts. Factors that impact your policy cost include your home’s location, its construction type, and whether or not it has protective devices like a home security system, fire sprinklers, or a central station fire alarm. 

Most vacant home insurance policies are paid for up-front on an annual basis with prorated premiums depending on how long you use the policy. That means if you cancel your coverage after four months, your insurer should reimburse you for the last eight months of the policy term.

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