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Unoccupied home insurance

Protect your home when you're not in it.

If nobody is living in your home, a vacant and unoccupied home insurance policy can keep your investment safe. But it’ll cost more than a traditional homeowners insurance policy.

What’s classified as unoccupied?

If you leave your home for an extended period of time, typically between 30 to 90 days, it will be considered unoccupied and you may void your home insurance.

How long is an extended period of time? That depends on the insurer, as each provider imposes its own time limit on the maximum period you can leave your home unoccupied and still expect full coverage under your policy.

Most Canadian insurers consider a home unoccupied after 30 days. Check your policy for the limit imposed by your insurer.

Vacant vs. unoccupied

Did you know that vacant and unoccupied can mean different things to an insurance company? A vacant home means that the owner has no intention of returning and most, if not all, of the furnishings have been removed. An unoccupied home means that the owner does intend to return and the home is suitable for immediate occupancy.

Can I get insurance for an unoccupied house?

Yes, most homeowners insurance providers offer coverage for unoccupied or vacant homes. You’ll just need to let the insurer know that the home is unoccupied or vacant on your application.

The insurer may also impose additional exclusions and restrictions on your policy. For example, you may be required to make sure your home is taken care of by:

  • Keeping the lawns mowed
  • Stopping the mail, newspaper and other regular deliveries
  • Getting someone such as a friend, relative or neighbor to check on your house (inside and outside once a week)

These conditions vary between insurers, so it’s a good idea to call your insurance agent before leaving or selling your home.

Will my regular homeowners insurance policy cover my home while it’s unoccupied?

No. If your home is unoccupied for more than a specific period of time, as little as 30 days with most insurers, your coverage no longer applies.

But if you already have a policy, you may be able to change coverage on your existing policy to protect it while it’s vacant instead of taking out a new policy.

For example, say you’re selling your house and you’ve already moved out. Your normal home insurance policy will cover you for up to 3 months while you wait for it to sell. But if it takes longer to sell than you’d planned, contact your insurer and swap to an unoccupied home policy.

What happens if my family or tenants move back in?

If you move into your home, you’ll need to contact your insurer and update your policy to a standard homeowners insurance policy.

If a tenant moves into your home, you’ll need to contact your insurer and update your policy to serve as landlord insurance.

Why does it matter if my home is unoccupied?

Insurance is all about risk. By agreeing to cover your home against a wide range of events, the insurer takes on a certain level of risk. But if you leave your home unoccupied for a long period, that level of risk will increase.

When your home is unoccupied, it’s a prime target for burglars, thieves and vandals, and you also can’t protect it against fires, storms or other weather-related perils. Events that may only cause minimal damage if you’re there to look after your property can cause much more serious damage if there’s nobody at home. Even something as simple as a burst pipe can cause a whole lot of expensive damage to an unoccupied home if you’re not there to call an emergency plumber or turn off the water supply.

So, to minimize their exposure to this increased level of risk, insurers generally charge more for insurance if the home is unoccupied.

How to protect your home while you’re away

To help keep your home safe and secure when you’re not around:

  • Consider a house sitter. Whether you go through a house sitting service or simply ask a friend or family member to do you a favor, getting someone to check on your house can help keep it secure.
  • Arrange for someone to check in regularly. If you can’t get a sitter, get someone you trust to stop in and check on the house at least once a week. Ask them to take a look inside and out to make sure everything is OK, as well as take care of any telltale signs of a vacant home, such as uncollected junk mail.
  • Stop the mail and other deliveries. Contact the post office to have your mail put on hold. If you get a newspaper or any other regular deliveries, make sure to cancel them as well.
  • Keep lawns mowed. An unkempt lawn and overgrown garden will alert thieves and burglars that there’s nobody home, and that there’s unlikely to be anyone home any time soon. Arrange for a friend or a professional service to stay on top of lawn and yard maintenance while you’re away.
  • Consider security options. Before you depart, thoroughly review just how secure your home is. Check all locks on windows and doors, and consider installing a monitored security system.

When would my house be considered unoccupied?

You might think an extra long honeymoon or vacation is fine, but it might not be for your insurer. Consider a few common scenarios where you might leave your home unoccupied for long enough that it could affect your insurance.

  • Leaving your home empty while traveling. If you’re planning an extended vacation, contact your insurer and notify them of your plans before you depart.
  • Leaving your home empty while you stay in your summer home. You may be lucky enough to own an extra property that acts as a second home for a few months of the year. This means leaving your primary home unoccupied for an extended period, so you’ll need to get the OK from your insurer if you want coverage to continue.
  • Leaving your home empty while you renovate. Living in your house while it’s renovated can be stressful and far from practical, so moving out for a few months while work is completed may be the best solution. Not only can your home insurance be canceled if you’re away for an extended period, but keep in mind that your insurer may not cover claims that arise because of the renovations.
  • Leaving your home empty while you receive medical treatment. If you suffer a serious illness or injury, you could be away from home for several weeks or even months while you undergo treatment and recover. If this happens, you or someone with power of attorney will need to contact your insurer to find out what cover is available.
  • Getting a house sitter. If you’re going to be away from home for an extended period, you may be contemplating getting a house sitter to mind your home. The good news is that this shouldn’t have any impact on your home insurance, but it’s still recommended that you contact the insurer to let them know of your plans.
  • Leaving a house vacant while trying to sell it or rent it out. If you plan to leave the property vacant while you either look to sell it or try to find new tenants to rent it out, check with your insurer to find out how this will affect your policy. While some insurers will cover unoccupied homes for up to 60 or 90 days, there are landlord insurance policies that require you to notify the insurer each time your home is left vacant due to a change of tenant.

Bottom line

If you’re planning on leaving your home unoccupied for more than 30 days, talk with your insurer to find out if you need to purchase additional coverage. And if you don’t have a policy lined up yet, compare homeowners insurance providers to find one that’s the right fit for your needs and budget.

Frequently asked questions about vacant home insurance

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