Vacant Homeowners Insurance: What It Is And When You Need It


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Updated: June 3, 2024

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Vacant homeowners insurance is a specialized policy designed to protect homes that are unoccupied for extended periods. Compared to standard homeowners insurance, which is typically regularly occupied, vacant homeowners insurance addresses the unique risks associated with vacant properties, such as vandalism, theft and undetected damage.

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Key Takeaways

Vacant homeowners insurance provides protection for unoccupied homes against risks like vandalism and theft.

A home is considered vacant if it is unoccupied for 30 to 60 days, lacks personal belongings or has disconnected utilities, making it more vulnerable to certain risks.

Vacant homeowners insurance does not cover routine maintenance issues, intentional damage by the homeowner, wear and tear or flood or earthquake damage without specific additional policies.

What Is Vacant Homeowners Insurance and What Does It Cover?

Vacant homeowners insurance is a policy that covers properties left unoccupied for extended periods, typically 30 to 60 days. This type of insurance addresses the unique risks associated with vacant properties, which are more susceptible to certain types of damage and theft due to the lack of regular monitoring and maintenance.

Here’s what vacant homeowners insurance typically covers:

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    Vandalism and Theft

    Vacant properties are often targets for vandalism and theft because they are less likely to be monitored. This coverage protects against damage or loss resulting from these events.

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    Fire and Smoke Damage

    Fires can cause significant damage to a home, and vacant homes are particularly vulnerable because there may be no one to quickly report or respond to a fire.

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    Water Damage from Burst Pipes or Leaks

    Unoccupied homes may suffer from undetected water damage. Vacant home insurance covers repairs from incidents like burst pipes or leaks.

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    Weather-Related Damage

    Damage from windstorms, hail and other weather events is typically covered, providing peace of mind that your property is protected against natural disasters.

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    Liability Issues

    If someone is injured on your property while it is vacant, this insurance can cover legal and medical expenses.

What Doesn’t Vacant Homeowners Insurance Cover?

While vacant homeowners insurance provides extensive coverage for unoccupied properties, it excludes routine maintenance issues and intentional damage. Knowing these limitations is crucial to avoid surprises when filing a claim. Generally, vacant homeowners insurance does not cover:

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    Routine Maintenance Issues

    Damage resulting from neglect or failure to perform regular maintenance is not covered. For instance, if a roof deteriorates due to lack of upkeep, the damage would not be eligible for a claim.

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    Intentional Damage by the Homeowner

    Any damage intentionally caused by the homeowner is excluded from coverage.

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    Flood Damage

    Damage from flooding is not covered under vacant homeowners insurance unless you have a separate flood insurance policy.

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    Earthquake Damage

    Like flood damage, earthquake damage requires a separate policy and is not covered under typical vacant homeowners insurance.

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    Wear and Tear

    Normal wear and tear or gradual deterioration over time is not covered.

What Counts as a Vacant Home?

A home is considered vacant when it's unoccupied for an extended period, typically defined as 30 to 60 days, depending on the insurer. Here are the main criteria that determine if a home is considered vacant:

  • No Residents Living in the Home: The primary indicator of vacancy is the absence of residents. A home is considered vacant if no one lives in it for a specified period.
  • Absence of Personal Belongings: A home with no furniture or personal items is more likely to be classified as vacant. The lack of these items suggests the property is not being used regularly.
  • Utilities Disconnected or Turned Off: If utilities such as electricity, water and gas are disconnected or turned off, the home may be deemed vacant.
  • No Regular Maintenance: Signs of neglect, such as overgrown lawns, accumulated mail or lack of general upkeep, can contribute to the classification of a home as vacant.

Understanding these indicators is crucial for determining when a home is classified as vacant and ensuring it has the appropriate insurance coverage.

Do You Need Homeowners Insurance on Vacant Land?

Having liability insurance for vacant land is crucial to protect against potential accidents or injuries occurring on the property. While you do not legally require homeowners insurance for a vacant home, it still needs adequate protection.

Having vacant home insurance can ensure your property is protected against:

  • Accidents and Injuries: If someone is injured on your vacant land, you could be liable for medical expenses and legal fees. Liability insurance protects you from these financial risks.
  • Trespassing Incidents: Even if someone is trespassing, you might still be liable for injuries they sustain on your property.
  • Natural Hazards: Vacant land can pose risks due to natural hazards like uneven terrain, which can lead to accidents.

Ensuring your property has the necessary insurance coverage, such as liability insurance for vacant land or vacant home insurance, is essential for protecting against various risks and liabilities.

Vacant Home Insurance vs. Homeowners Insurance

Vacant home insurance and standard homeowners insurance differ primarily in the scope of coverage and the risks they address. These differences are essential to understand to ensure your property is adequately protected based on its occupancy status. Take a look at the table below to understand the key differences:

Feature
Vacant Home Insurance
Homeowners Insurance

Coverage Period

Long-term unoccupied homes

Regularly occupied homes

Risks Covered

Vandalism, theft and undetected damage

Fire, theft and weather-related damage

Liability

Higher risk due to lack of occupancy

Standard liability for occupied properties

How to Purchase Vacant Homeowners Insurance

Purchasing vacant homeowners insurance involves a few key steps to ensure you get the right coverage. With careful planning and consideration, you can secure the right policy to safeguard your investment. Here’s a detailed guide to help you through the process:

1
Assess Your Needs

Determine how long the property will be vacant and what specific risks you need coverage for. Consider the property's location, condition and any previous damage.

2
Research Providers

Look for insurance companies that specialize in vacant home insurance. Some insurers may offer policies specifically tailored to vacant properties, providing more comprehensive coverage options.

3
Compare Policies

Evaluate the coverage options, exclusions and costs of different policies. Pay attention to what is included and what is not covered.

4
Get Quotes

Request home insurance quotes from multiple insurers to compare prices. Be sure to provide accurate information about the property to get an accurate quote.

5
Review Terms

Carefully read the policy terms to understand coverage limits, deductibles and any conditions. Ensure you are clear on what is required to maintain the coverage.

6
Purchase Policy

Choose the best policy for your needs and purchase it, ensuring you maintain documentation for future reference. Keep a copy of the policy documents and contact information for your insurer handy.

7
Maintain Property

Even with vacant home insurance, it's important to perform regular inspections and maintenance to minimize risks and ensure compliance with the policy terms.

FAQ About Vacant Homeowners Insurance

Understanding vacant homeowners insurance can be complex, especially with the various coverage options and limitations. To help clarify common concerns, we've compiled answers to frequently asked questions about vacant homeowners insurance.

Does homeowners insurance cover a vacant home?
How long can a house be unoccupied for insurance purposes?
What does vacant mean in an insurance policy?

Read More

About Mark Fitzpatrick


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Mark Fitzpatrick has analyzed the property and casualty insurance market for over five years, conducting original research and creating personalized content for every kind of buyer. Currently, he leads P&C insurance content production at MoneyGeek. Fitzpatrick has been quoted in several insurance-related publications, including CNBC, NBC News and Mashable.

Fitzpatrick earned a master’s degree in economics and international relations from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. He is passionate about using his knowledge of economics and insurance to bring transparency around financial topics and help others feel confident in their money moves.