Homeowner's Policies for Vacant Dwellings

Conventional homeowner's insurance won't cover a vacant home for long.
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More than 18 million homes in the United States were vacant during the second quarter of 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If you move out of your home and leave it vacant, you shouldn't assume your homeowner's policy will continue covering it. Continuing coverage isn't automatic, and you still may be responsible for any damage that occurs.

Short-Term Coverage

When your home becomes vacant, your standard homeowner's insurance policy continues to provide coverage for only a limited time, typically 30 to 60 days, according to the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group. An absentee homeowner then must buy a special policy, often at higher cost with less coverage. Insurers see vacant homes as a higher risk for vandalism, fire and other perils, so they may decline to insure them.

Vacancy Endorsement

Ask your insurance agent whether the company grants homeowners a special policy endorsement, or "vacancy permit." You must request it within 30 days of leaving the home vacant. A vacancy endorsement usually provides limited continuing coverage only for major risks, such as fire, and it may not cover water damage or vandalism like broken glass. The availability, terms and cost of such coverage vary by company.

Finding a Policy

State Farm -- the top home insurer in the U.S. by market share, as of 2013 -- cancels homeowner's coverage after a house has been vacant 30 consecutive days. It offers a six-month vacancy endorsement for an additional fee. Allstate, the second leading insurer, doesn't offer vacancy endorsements but refers customers to an associated company, which covers vacant homes. Farmers Insurance, the third leading home insurer, says it will write policies for vacant dwellings worth up to $1 million.

FAIR Program

Check whether your state offers a plan under the federal Fair Access to Insurance Requirements program. More than half of the states and the District of Columbia have FAIR plans, which require all property insurers licensed in the state to participate in a insurance pool to cover high-risk cases in which it's difficult to get conventional insurance. Ask your insurance agent about the FAIR plan or for help finding a company to insure your vacant home.

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