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Vacant homes can be tough to insure

If you're planning an extended vacation or a business trip, or if you move into a new home without selling your old one, you may have a problem with your home insurance. Because vacant homes can be targets for vandals, thieves and the homeless, insurance companies don't want to insure them.

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Insurers usually try to avoid insuring a vacant home, unless they know someone is frequently checking on it. Without that, the risk for claims-inducing damage soars. Besides an increased risk for vandalism and fire, vacant homes have the potential for flooding from burst pipes or being infested by insects or other vermin — which can cause extensive damage.

home insurance for vacant houses

Often, home insurance companies will give you a window in which a house can be vacant, such as 60 days (some insurers may allow only 30). After that, they may reserve the right to cancel your home insurance policy. Home insurers will often work with you if you have a special situation — for example, if you bought a new house and are waiting to sell your vacant house, but are still checking in on it.

A house that is regularly "checked on" shouldn't look vacant, even though it is. Someone should pick up the mail, mow the lawn, turn on lights and maybe even park a car in the driveway — anything that makes it an unattractive target for vandals and vagrants. Additionally, the person checking on the house should look inside regularly.

Another option is to have a "house sitter" in the home, keeping an eye on things. If a family member or friend can stay in the home for a period of time, the home is considered occupied. If family or friends are not available, house-sitting services are available in most areas, with rates subject to negotiation in many cases.

What to do when no one wants you

There are going to be cases when you won't be able to get a regular home insurance policy for a vacant house.

 

You may not be able to buy a regular home insurance policy for a vacant house, even if you call every agent in town. In those cases, you'll have to search for an insurance company that specializes in insuring vacant homes. Since special insurance policies for vacant homes are expensive, it may be cheaper to hire a house sitter. If your agent can't help you, try your state's insurance department. As a last resort, you can try your state's FAIR plan, which provides coverage to customers rejected by other insurers.

In New York, for example, the New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association (NYPIUA), a type of FAIR plan, takes on vacant homes — with some conditions and usually with high premium charges. NYPIUA is an association of private insurers that take on riskier properties.

In the end, the best advice is this: If you must leave a house unoccupied, do your best to limit its time alone.

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