Vacant and unoccupied homeowners insurance

Homeowners insurance may cover your home and personal property while your away, but you may need to look into additional coverage or a separate policy.

Homeowners insurance reimburses you when your home and personal property are damaged or burglarized by a peril that’s covered in your policy. It also may reimburse you for legal and medical expenses if someone is injured in your home and sues or requires medical care.

However, if you moved and are still attempting to sell your old house, or you only use the house as a vacation home for a couple months out of the year, or you travel around the world for six months at a time, your home may not be covered if something bad happens. In fact, most insurers stipulate that if you’re gone for 30 to 60 days in a row, you may need to either add an endorsement to your existing policy or look into a separate vacant and unoccupied homeowners insurance policy for your home and personal belongings while you’re gone.

Vacant and unoccupied homes are generally viewed as high-risk properties by insurers and are prime targets for theft and vandalism. Emergency response times may also be delayed, which allows elemental perils like fire and weather-related damage to proliferate since there’s no one home to alert the authorities. To reduce your premiums and give you a peace of mind, look into smoke and burglary alarms that can summon police and fire departments directly.

If you plan on being gone for long stretches, communicate that to your insurer. They may be more willing to cover you under a standard policy if you let them know what the deal is beforehand. Otherwise, you’ll want to look into additional or separate coverage.

When you may need empty home insurance

There are several situations where your home may be vacant or unoccupied or long stretches of time and you need coverage that suits your circumstance. If you need to take off for whatever reason and find yourself in a time crunch, our licensed agents at Policygenius can help find you a policy that covers your empty home and take care of any added legwork like cancelling your existing policy.

Here are a few scenarios where you may need a vacant or unoccupied home insurance policy or rider:

You’re renovating your home

If you’re making some pretty drastic improvements to your home, it may require that you move out for an extended period. Homes undergoing renovations are attractive targets for thieves and are generally easier to break into, especially if your home is undergoing structural remodeling and there’s potentially insecure access points. Homes undergoing renovations are also significant liability concerns for insurers, as building materials and scaffolding presents a risk of injury for someone who decides to wander onto your property.

You’re renting or selling the home

If you moved out of the home and it’s completely vacant, or you’re renting out the home but it’s being cleaned and repaired with no one inside, its still going to need coverage while its on the market or without tenants. Your standard policy will typically never cover a completely vacant home, so you’ll need to find a separate policy or an endorsement to your existing policy.

However, landlords may have a little more wiggle room. If your property is injured under a landlord policy, but it’s without tenants or any occupants for an extended stretch of time, it’s common for insurers to let you buy a temporary unoccupied home endorsement and switch back to your basic landlord policy without having to cancel anything.

It’s your vacation home

If you only use the home as a vacation getaway a few months out of the year, it’s going to need a separate form of coverage. You may also need to add additional coverage for your unoccupied primary home, depending on how long you’re away.

You’re in the hospital

If anticipate that you’ll be in the hospital for a lengthy period of time, you may want to look into additional coverage. But you should first talk to your insurer about your predicament, as they may allow coverage under your existing policy out of good will.

If you’re in the hospital so long that your insurer considers the home vacant, you may be eligible for disability insurance benefits if you have a short elimination period.

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How to insure your vacant and unoccupied home

Whether or not you need to make changes to your current coverage depends on your insurer and your individual circumstance. If your vacant and unoccupied home can’t remain under your current policy, your policy may need a coverage endorsement, or you may need to purchase an entirely new policy.

Some insurers will cancel your standard policy coverage if it’s determined you were gone for 30 days, while some may still cover you if you’ve been gone for 60 days or more. State Farm, for example, won’t cover you if you’ve been absent for 30 days or more, but offers a vacancy endorsement that you can cancel when you return.

If your home is unoccupied, the most important thing is just talking to your insurer and letting them know whats up. If you live at two homes throughout the year (your vacation home for three months and your primary home for nine months), that’s potentially two homes that need unoccupied insurance, and even your primary residence may be deemed to be high-risk if you’re gone three months out of the year. If that’s the case, see if it's possible to get a packaged insurance deal for your part-time dwellings. Not only may this lower your premiums, but it will get everything under one policy and limit confusion.

A vacant home may be harder and more expensive to insure, but there are options available to you. If your insurer doesn’t write vacant home policies, they may be able to point you in the direction of a specialized insurer who can.

How much does it cost?

Costs to insure your empty home can vary depending on your insurer, where you live, whether or not your home is undergoing renovations, or whether your home is designated as merely unoccupied or completely vacant.

If your home is unoccupied, most insurers offer endorsements, special vacancy permits, or riders that generally cost less than $100 per year. Vacant home policies, meanwhile, are going to run you way higher – generally about two to three times the premiums you pay for a standard home insurance policy. Most vacant home policies are paid for up front on an annual basis, but they’re also typically prorated, meaning if you only use the policy for four months, you could be reimbursed for the last eight months of the term.

Homeowners Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Homeowners Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a homeowners insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. He has written extensively about home insurance cost, coverage, and companies since 2018, and his insights have been featured on Investopedia, Lifehacker, MSN, Zola, HerMoney, and Property Casualty 360.