Homeowners companies are reluctant to offer insurance coverage on a home that is considered unoccupied or vacant. More than half of the homeowners companies we surveyed will not even take the risk on a vacant dwelling by offering insurance, even for “customers” that have been insuring with them for many years. Coverage will end, not be renewed, or will be drastically reduced after a home is not occupied for as little as 30 days in many instances. In almost all cases we have seen, a regular homeowners’ insurance policy will not provide full coverage after 90 days of vacancy. In some instances, all cover can be lost. A vacant dwelling policy will need to be put in place.
When a traditional homeowners insurer finds out the home is not being occupied by the primary owner (or at least one family member in the immediate family) they will take steps to cancel the policy. In the cases where the homeowner’s insurer is actually willing to offer coverage on the vacant home, don’t think the coverage is the same!
The covered offered is almost always reduced from what the owner had while living in the house. The coverage being offered is called a dwelling policy (Dwelling 1 or Dwelling 3) and it is not the same amount of coverage the owner had while living on premises, which is typically called HO3 or HO5 coverage.
What are some of the basic differences between the insurance you had while living in the home and what a typical home insurer will offer you on a vacant dwelling? A dwelling policy does not offer “all risk” coverage on the home. There are hundreds of causes of loss. We have seen everything from a woodpecker burrowing a hole into the side of a home so large, it cost $5,000 to fix, to a small airplane flying into the side of a house causing $250,000 of damage. There are hundreds of examples and potential causes of loss in between these two examples.
A dwelling policy offers a short list of covered items. For example, fire, windstorm, smoke, etc. (perhaps 9 covered items, in total) If the cause of your loss is not on the short list, it’s simply not covered under a typical dwelling policy. We can find clients the same coverage terms that they had while living in the home, and not reduced dwelling policy terms, if the home becomes vacant or unoccupied.
Rule # 2, don’t let your insurance company offer you a dwelling policy on your vacant home with reduced coverage and higher premium.
In addition, because traditional homeowners companies do not like to cover vacant homes, the cost is extremely high and very little coverage is provided. Our program costs are higher than what the owner was paying while the house was occupied too, but the coverage is very comprehensive compared to what most homeowners insurers are willing to offer homes considered empty or vacant.