Your Vacant Home May Not Be Insured

8/18/2010

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If you moved and were unable to sell or rent out your house, you may be surprised to find that your homeowner’s insurance could stop covering it if it sits vacant for too long.

A recent news release by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) warns that you should check the fine print on your homeowner’s policy to see what happens if your home is vacant or unoccupied.  “Vacant” means that you have moved out and taken your belongings with you, so the house is empty.  “Unoccupied” means that nobody is staying at the home, but the furniture and other belongings remain. 

NAIC says that insurers differ on how they cover vacant and unoccupied homes.  Some policies might not cover claims if a home has been vacant for 60 days or more. Others might automatically shift to a different amount of coverage (e.g. liability insurance only) after a specific number of unoccupied days. 

It makes sense that insurers would have concerns about an empty house.  It’s at more risk for a break-in if it’s obvious that nobody’s living there.  With nobody around to call 911 or a repairman, a problem like a small electrical fire or leak could turn into a big, expensive disaster.  And there’s nobody around to supervise or keep others off the property.

NAIC President Jane Cline recommends that you check with your insurance company before you leave the house vacant and be honest about your situation.  While an extra endorsement or vacancy policy may cost more, it could save you big bucks if something bad happens at the house when you are not there.

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