Leaving a House (Vulnerably) Vacant...Nine Ways to Protect Your Unoccupied Home

BLOG_Leaving a home vulnerably vacant

Maybe a work assignment will take you away from Florida for a few months. Or you're between tenants on your rental property. It could be that you've moved and placed your old house on the market. You might even be a snowbird whose Florida winter home goes vacant while you spend the summer up north.

No matter the reason why, you need special coverage if your home will be unoccupied for an extended period of time. Simply locking the door and asking someone to check in once in a while could be a costly mistake if your house is damaged or sustains some other type of loss while it is vacant.

Occupancy matters greatly when it comes to homeowner insurance. A standard Florida home insurance policy does not cover a home during long periods of vacancy, even if you continue to pay your premium. Share this 

We’re not talking about a two-week vacation, of course, but any lengthy, uninterrupted vacancy -- usually defined as 30 days or more -- means your house must be re-insured under a vacant home policy.

Why? Vacant homes face a greater risk of loss than occupied homes. A broken pipe or faulty hot water heater could go undetected for days, causing major damage. A vacant home is more vulnerable to break-ins and vandalism. Also, when no one is around to monitor the premises, your potential liability increases. Share this

Before you leave a house vacant, always talk to your insurance agent to make sure you have the right coverage in place. Tweet this

Vacant home insurance is usually written as a 12-month policy, but has a lot of flexibility. Let’s say that empty house you have on the market sells, or your out-of-state work assignment gets cut short. Your vacant home policy from American Integrity can be changed or canceled after three months, and you can return to a standard home insurance policy if you are moving back into the house.

Getting your insurance right is just the first step. There's lots more to do before leaving a house empty for a prolonged time:

  • Enlist a friend or trusted neighbor or hire a property maintenance company to frequently check on your property inside and out during your absence.  


  • Consider installing a home security system. Many offer remote monitoring capabilities of windows, water pipes and valuables, along with police or other armed response. A home security system can also qualify you for discounts on your vacant home insurance policy.


  • Bolster exterior lighting all around your house and any outbuildings with a combination of motion and timed lights. Have inside lighting on a timer system. Adjust blinds to let daylight in but prevent anyone from seeing in. And don’t forget to inform your home security company that your property will be vacant.


  • Stop mail, trash pickup and deliveries.


  • Continue landscape and pool services and secure pool areas. 


  • Turn off your hot water heater.


  • Clean out your fridge thoroughly and unplug it.


  • If you have an HOA agreement, check to see what kind of notification is required on home vacancies.


Florida's heat and humidity pose special problems for vacant homes. See this comprehensive list of tips from the University of Florida's Sarasota County Extension on how to protect your vacant home from problems like mold, mildew and insects. 

The bottom line: A home is an important investment, whether you are living in it or not. Contact your independent agent today to find out more about vacant home insurance.

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