Are Vacant and Unoccupied Homes covered under insurance?

First, there IS a difference between vacant and unoccupied homes. While unoccupancy is a temporary condition and an exception to a residence normally having occupants, vacancy generally represents the abandonment of a home. Both of these conditions may affect your coverage under a typical homeowner policy. In order to keep your coverage intact, t is important to understand the consequences of either condition.

Generally, there are a couple of areas under a homeowner policy that may be affected by a home’s occupancy status. Let’s talk about some homeowner policies exclusions in detail.

– A homeowner policy usually protects a home from any loss that is caused by a frozen plumbing system, heating system, air conditioning system or appliance.

Example 1:  Fern Guddyson and her family leave their home in New York in January. They’ll spend the next 16 weeks in Miami to get away from the cold weather for a bit. During a bitter cold spell at their New York home at the end of March, the water line to their refrigerator freezes and breaks. Later, when the line unfreezes, it overflows and, eventually, soaks up all of the home’s wood flooring and carpets. Fern files a claim to her insurer when the family returns home. The insurance company rejects the claim when they find out the home was unoccupied for more than the specified number of days before the loss as written on the policy.

Most homeowner policies will not insure freeze-related losses in which the home is either vacant OR unoccupied or an extended period. However, this loss of coverage can be avoided if precautions are followed. This calls for draining any systems or appliances of water and shutting off the home’s water supply, or keeping the home heated during period of absence.

– A homeowner policy typically offers protection to a home that is vandalized.

Example 2: Fern Guddyson and her family leave their home in New York in January. Again, they’ll spend the next 16 weeks in Miami. A week before the Guddysons return, a group of kids breaks into the windows of their home, using tools to smash doors, floors, and walls. Fern files a claim to her insurer when the family returns from their getaway. Their insurer estimates the damage and gives Fern a check to cover her loss.

Typically, vandalism losses are covered during extended unoccupancy periods. However, if the Guddysons had emptied their home and turned off the power for the time they were gone, the vandalism loss would not have been covered because the house would be considered vacant.

Why Are Such Exclusions Necessary?  Most homeowners policies are written for owner occupant so there are often exclusions to include property abandonment and/or neglect and to avoid special loss situations.  A vacant home is at risk without proper insurance because it seems to attract vandals. If a home is to be vacated, it may be necessary to purchase fire coverage to protect the home. In regards to loss caused by freezing, insurance companies encourage homeowners to take steps to reduce or eliminate the chance that a system or appliance causes a loss. If an insured homeowner refuses to act responsibly toward their property, they take the risk of a possible uninsured loss.

If you are in a situation where you know your home will be unoccupied or vacant for an extended period, speak with your agent and make sure you plan out whatever is necessary to ensure your full insurance protection.

If you have any questions about your existing policy, are inquiring information about a possible future policy or need further information, please call us at (631) 738-7300 or get a quick quote at

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