A lot of problems that occur in a home can be avoided if someone is living in it. Therefore, a home left uninhabited presents many insurance risks. If damage to the home was avoidable, your home insurer may not cover the claim.
A standard home insurance policy usually won't pay out on claims that have been vacant for at least a month. If you have a property with no one living in it, there is unoccupied or vacant home insurance. They provide valuable coverage for uninhabited houses. These are two separate policy types, and have different costs.
This article will cover:
Why are vacant and unoccupied home insurance important?
An uninhabited home is a magnet for problems. Thieves are attracted to homes with little chance of running into an occupant. Even if a thief breaks into an empty home you own, insurers would still have to pay out for any damage caused by the breaking and entering.
No one living in the house also means theres no one to stop a problem before it starts or gets worse. If an occupant is in the house when a fire starts, for example, there is a better chance of containing the damage quickly. Also, no occupants mean no one to call the fire department.
Due to costly risks such as these, home insurance companies usually deny claims made on home with no one living in them for 30 to 60 days, depending on the insurer and policy type.
Vacant home insurance vs. unoccupied home insurance
While the on-the-surface difference between "vacant" and "unoccupied" may seem like splitting hairs, what they cover varies a lot. In simple terms, a vacant home is one that needs to have some prep work done before it can be considered livable. An unoccupied home can be moved into today.
Vacant home insurance
Vacant home insurance covers homes that contain no personal property and have the utilities turned off. Examples of a vacant home include:
- A house on the market to sell
- A rental home with no current tenants
Vacant homes tend to be considered a higher insurance risk than unoccupied homes. With an unoccupied home, damages tend to be less, which means quicker claim resolution.
Vacant home insurance is also more restricted in scope than with a standard HO-3 policy. Fire and wind damage are usually covered under a vacant home insurance policy, but water damage from burst pipes and vandalism are not. You will want to talk with your home insurance provider about the specific coverage points of the vacant home policy.
Unoccupied home insurance
If an uninhabited house has the utilities turned on, the appliances work and furniture is moved in, then the house is considered unoccupied instead of vacant. An unoccupied home can mean someone lives there, but is away for an extended period. This can include:
- Extended work travel
- Long vacation
Do I need to get vacant or unoccupied home insurance?
Simply put, if you own a home that is going to be vacant or unoccupied for any reason for a month or more, you will want to get the appropriate uninhabited home insurance for it.
If you currently have an HO-3 policy on the home, talk with your current provider to see how long the house in question can remain uninhabited before they will not honor any claims filed on it. If it's going to be uninhabited past their cutoff time, make sure to get the correct coverage in place.
How much does it cost to insure a vacant or unoccupied home?
An unoccupied home usually costs less to insure than a vacant home. If purchased as an endorsement, this coverage usually runs about $100 a year.
Vacant home insurance costs considerably more. You can expect to pay 50% more than a regular HO-3 policy for the same property if it were occupied. For example, if you paid $1,200 a year for home insurance, add $600 onto your premium for vacant home coverage.
Factors that can affect the cost of either uninhabited home insurance type include:
- Amount of time the house is uninhabited
- Security systems installed in the home
- ZIP code of the house
- Whether or not the house is currently being renovated
Both vacant and unoccupied home insurance coverage are usually available as add-on endorsements, or as completely separate policies. The separate policy option tends to be the best. You won't have to pay for your HO-3 policy while you have the uninhabited home insurance as a separate policy. If you choose to have the coverage as an endorsement, the cost must be paid with your regular premium.
Due to the extended amount of time vacant home insurance may be in effect, premiums for this insurance are usually paid in total for a whole year. However, this premium is usually prorated if the home becomes occupied in the course of that year. For example, if the house is only vacant for four months, you should get a refund for the unused eight months.
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