General homeowners insurance assumes that the home is occupied primarily by you and your family. However, if you leave your home vacant for any reason, including a long vacation or work trip, you may need to speak with your insurance agent about obtaining additional coverage. The insurance requirements for vacant properties can vary, but in general you're required to take steps to ensure proper coverage.
Most homeowner insurance companies stipulate that a home is "vacant" if left unoccupied for more than 30 days. You must take steps to provide additional coverage if you will be leaving the home empty. Insurance companies require additional coverage in these cases because a vacant home is more vulnerable to theft and damage if it isn't being looked after. For example, if an electrical fire breaks out while a property is vacant, it is highly likely that the entire home will be destroyed.
Some homeowner insurance companies will allow consumers to purchase a low-cost endorsement to their current policy. This endorsement provides additional coverage of a vacant property; it also relieves the homeowner of the responsibility if damage to the property occurs. An endorsement is something that is likely offered to consumers whose homes will not likely be vacant for a long period of time. Therefore, if you and your family have an extended vacation planned, a homeowners insurance endorsement could help further protect your home.
Full Vacant Home Insurance
If you plan to leave your home vacant for a long period of time, you likely will need to purchase a new insurance policy entirely. Many insurance companies have an option for vacant properties. For example, some companies offer both "peril" and "vandalism and mischief" insurance policies. These two policies would cover natural disasters as well as damage suffered from criminal acts. Consult an insurance agent prior to accepting new coverage.
Failure to Inform
It is critically important to notify your carrier of a vacant property -- meaning a property left unoccupied for more than 30 days. If you fail to inform your insurance company and your home is damaged or destroyed, you may find that your insurance policy is forfeit. Even if you believe that the home will not stand vacant for more than 30 days, it is still important to speak with your agent about additional coverage, if only for peace of mind.
Based in Eugene, Ore., Duncan Jenkins has been writing finance-related articles since 2008. His specialties include personal finance advice, mortgage/equity loans and credit management. Jenkins obtained his bachelor's degree in English from Clark University.