If you plan on leaving your home for weeks or months at a time, take note of something important about your homeowner’s insurance: If you need to make a claim during the time you are away, it may be denied.
The reason why a claim is denied can sometimes be confusing for homeowners, but it generally has to do with the fact that insurance companies don’t often cover homes where no one is living in. In fact, most insurance companies have a predetermined “cutoff inoccupancy period” (usually 30 days or 60 days). If you leave your home for longer than your insurance company’s pre-determined cutoff time period, your coverage is automatically canceled.
Why Don’t Insurance Companies Want to Insure Vacant and Unoccupied Homes?
Insurance companies are reluctant to insure unoccupied and vacant homes because they pose more risks. When you don’t live in a home for a long period of time, there is a greater chance that problems will occur. This is true for both vacant homes and unoccupied homes — and yes there is a difference.
Vacant homes are homes where no one currently lives, and no one can live in them for several reasons. First, the utilities are shut off. This means no water and no electricity. Second, all possessions and furniture have been removed from the home. This means no bed to sleep in, no table to eat from, and no chairs to sit on. It’s a completely unlivable residence.
Unoccupied homes, on the other hand, are livable. Utilities are turned on, and there is enough furniture inside the home for someone to live normally. Generally speaking, this means a bed, a table, chairs, and other necessary appliances. Unoccupied homes are usually primary residences that are unoccupied for 30 days, 60 days, or longer.
Often, seasonal homes are considered unoccupied homes as well. In this case, you may need to purchase a unique seasonal home policy if your primary home insurance does not cover seasonal (vacation) homes.
How Can You Make Sure Your Properties Are Insured?
Ensuring constant insurance for all of your Wisconsin properties and beyond is critical. Let’s look at an example:
Say you’ve had to leave your primary residence for an extended period of time — longer than 60 days. Perhaps you went away on business or went traveling with your spouse.
But upon returning 60+ days later, you find that a huge windstorm had swept through your neighborhood, taking off part of your roof and damaging your siding. You file a claim. But it comes back to you denied — “Insurance voided because of vacancy past 60 days.”
This can be the result of leaving your unoccupied home past the “cutoff date.” In this case, you would be paying thousands of dollars out of pocket that could have been paid for by your insurance company.
The best way to ensure your properties are constantly covered by insurance is to speak directly with your insurance agent about the parameters and specifics on your policy when it comes to vacancy.
Vacant homes are particularly difficult to have insured because of the high risk of glass breakage and vandalism. These are both issues that insurance companies are reticent to cover. In fact, for most policies, glass breakage and vandalism will not be covered at all — nor will the ensuing damage from these events.
With unoccupied homes, the issue is with the various rules insurance companies have, pertaining to how long a home can be vacant before it’s considered unoccupied and the insurance is canceled. Generally, the time period is between 30 and 60 days but always consult your insurance company directly.
Generally speaking, any time you have questions about unoccupied or vacant homes, you should speak directly with a licensed insurance agent. This topic can be extremely confusing, but a knowledgeable agent will be able to help.
Our agents at Thiel Insurance Group are always here to answer your questions at any time.