As brokers, we receive a good deal of phone calls from people who have just had their home insurance coverage canceled because their home is either vacant or unoccupied. There are various reasons why a house may be empty at one point or another. For example, you have bought a new house and have left the old one behind; you have moved somewhere else; you have inherited a property after the death of a loved one. To make sure your house is well insured, follow this friendly advice from Assurances Multi-Risques!
Difference between a vacant and unoccupied house?
Unoccupied house : Unoccupied means that the house is uninhabited for a specified length of time, but that the owners will eventually return to live in the house.
Vacant house : Vacant means the inhabitants have left the place for good, whether or not their belongings are still in the house. Please note that a newly built house can also be considered vacant for the period between the time construction ends and the time the owners move in.
How to appropriately insure a vacant or unoccupied house?
Did you know that your home insurance contract contains a clause excluding vacant houses? This clause states that any damage occurring during a period where your home is – to the best of your knowledge – vacant for more than 30 consecutive days will not be covered. That means that you will not be reimbursed by your insurance company if you ever sustain damages to your house in these circumstances. That’s why it’s important to inform your insurer or insurance broker if your home’s status changes. Otherwise, you could be denied coverage if you make a claim in such circumstances.
Once you have told your insurer that your house is empty, he may or may not choose to insure you. Insurers who accept to insure your home will add a rider or a vacancy clause that will allow you to leave your house empty for a certain period of time. Your insurer will, however, impose a surcharge and will void your vandalism, malicious act, glass breakage and water damage clauses while the house is empty.
A surcharge linked to an increased risk
As mentioned above, you must be ready to contend with a certain degree of coverage reduction if your house is left empty for a long period of time. Insurance companies are not very keen on insuring empty houses because of the increased risk of fire, theft, vandalism and civil responsibility issues. To find out more on this topic and to avoid problems, we strongly advise that you contact an independent insurance broker who works with several insurance companies. An insurance broker who specializes in vacant or unoccupied homes will be able to provide you with appropriate advice and to help you find an insurance company willing to offer protection for your home.
Meanwhile, here are a few tips that will help you sell a vacant house more quickly. You can increase your chances of selling your house quickly, and avoid paying insurance on two properties, by making sure you adequately maintain your empty home.
A few insurance tips
- Visit your house regularly or have someone, a caretaker or a friend, do it for you;
- Turn off the water and empty the pipes since water damage is never covered when a house is empty;
- Keep the heat on during winter;
- Make sure your entrance is shoveled during winter;
- Make sure your lawn is mowed during summer;
- Have an automatic system turn the house’s lights on and off;
- Leave drapes in the windows to maintain a certain degree of privacy.