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Updated: Feb 15, 2023

A tale of two houses and how you can avoid having an unhappy ending in one of them.

Two identical residential homes (one is vacant and one is occupied) are NOT insured in the same way.

A vacant house represents increased exposure to loss because, typically, no one is tending to the house. Loss increases dramatically from perils such as fire, vandalism, theft, and water damage from burst pipes or sprinkler leakage. These perils can go undetected for some time, increasing the severity of the loss as well. The vacancy provision in a standard residential homeowner’s policy says that when the policy is issued to the homeowner, the property is considered vacant if no one is living there for 30 days or more. The exact terms of the policy may vary from insurance carrier to insurance carrier.

Additionally, the policy goes on to say that if the house has been vacant for more than 30 days before a loss occurs, the insurance company will not pay for any vandalism, sprinkler leakage, glass breakage, water damage, theft, or attempted theft. The damage caused by any covered perils will also be reduced by 15%. However, vacant home insurance policies are designed to cover homes that are vacant because they’re in the process of being sold, undergoing repairs or renovations, or otherwise not being lived in on a full-time basis. Vacant home insurance can be its own policy, but you may need to purchase a vacant home insurance policy to fill a coverage gap or purchase a second home insurance policy. Another option is hiring a Home Watch Company to prevent any damage for a small amount and a piece of mind.

In the case of snow-birding to Florida for the winter, the home here may need to change the policy to be a secondary home, and the carrier will have winterization requirements, and the temperature must be set at a certain number, usually 55 degrees, with a central station alarm.

Please note that there are private Home Watch Companies like Safe Home Management of South Florida for hire that will monitor the unoccupied house while the residents are away.

The bottom line is that if you know that your home, cooperative, condominium, or townhouse unit is going to be unoccupied for longer than 30 days, you should discuss your options with your insurance broker, and contact Safe Home Management to prevent any additional expenses you do not need.

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