You may end up holding an unoccupied house for any number of reasons; pending sale, extensive renovation, inability to find a tenant, and so on.
A regular homeowner’s insurance policy is not designed or intended to cover vacant homes.
Typically, a home is considered vacant if it is unoccupied for over 60 days or if it doesn’t have a certificate of occupancy for any reason, no utilities for example.
Whatever the reason, you will need a vacant dwelling policy to insure the unoccupied home.
Unoccupied Houses More Expensive to Insure
Unoccupied houses tend to cost more to insure than an occupied dwelling for a number of reasons.
They are more commonly targeted for theft and vandalism and there is obviously no one around to maintain the home or to contact the fire department/police if the home were to catch on fire.
If you insure a vacant home on a standard homeowner’s policy and file an insurance claim, it will not be paid if the insurance company can prove it was vacant.
Don’t bury your head in the sand on this one…it can cost you big money if there is a property damage or liability claim filed against you.
What Does a Vacancy Policy Cover?
Really, it covers almost everything a standard homeowner’s policy would cover with a few exclusions. However, many of the exclusions can be removed by endorsing the policy with more coverage.
Additionally, you can purchase insurance for the home’s contents.
Liability coverage is available through some companies, but not all of them, so if you want it, make sure to ask your agent.
Remember, even if a dwelling is vacant, you are still legally liable for bodily injury someone may suffer on your property.
Vandalism and Malicious Mischief Coverage
Depending on the location of your unoccupied property you may want to expressly ask for “extended coverage” and coverage for “vandalism and malicious mischief,” known as VMM in insurance circles, which is typically excluded.
The definition of extended coverage may vary slightly by each insurer. Normally, this endorsement will add coverage for more causes of loss. For example, “theft” may not be covered on the basic policy unless it is added by request. Picture the copper pipes and wiring being stolen from a home if it is undergoing renovation.
Vandalism and malicious mischief coverage may be necessary depending on where the home is located. This coverage is highly recommended, as unoccupied houses are most often targeted for this type of activity. Picture neighborhood children breaking out windows and kicking holes in the walls while the home is vacant.
Remember, insurance companies require this type of policy to be in-force if you expect them to pay any claims on the property.