Protecting Your Vacant Property
Are you spending this summer at the cottage? Selling or renting a home that’s still sitting on the market? Maybe you have an out-of-province property that you can’t visit due to travel restrictions.
If you’re leaving any property unoccupied for longer than usual, it’s best to take action now to avoid unnecessary risk and costs.
A lot of people assume their home insurance covers them — and it does, but only up to a certain point. That’s why it’s helpful to understand the difference between an unoccupied property and a vacant one.
Vacant VS Unoccupied
Firstly, there are many reasons a property could be considered vacant. You may be moving into a new home and your current house is sitting empty while you wait for it to sell. Your rental property might have a gap in tenants during a slow period or off-season.
Different insurers will use different definitions, but for the most part it comes down to whether or not you will be returning to the house or property.
If you intend to go back at some point in the near future, the property is considered unoccupied. But if you never intend to go back, it would be considered vacant.
However, even an unoccupied property still falls under the vacant category when it comes to insurance, so it’s best to follow the same rules.
Also, vacancy can refer to a newly constructed building or home you recently purchased but haven’t moved into.
Most insurance policies have a time limit on how long a property can be unoccupied or vacant before that policy is null and void — often around 30 consecutive days.
Why do I need to notify my broker?
The longer a property is left unoccupied, the higher the risk of damage and loss — think water damage or theft.
A vacant property can become a target for burglary, vandalism or attract other unwanted guests, such as mice or other small animals.
If you don’t notify your broker of a change in your property status — such as leaving it unoccupied for more than 30 days — you could face a reduction in coverage or your policy could potentially be voided.
A broker will help determine what’s best for you and be able to explain how to extend your coverage past the 30-day mark. They can also give an overview of any potential pricing adjustments to your policy.
The extension may come at an extra cost, but it will also give you peace of mind and added protection.
Other Helpful Tips
Your insurance policy will also list out any other obligations to maintain your insurance. Things like locking all doors and windows, ensuring the water supply is shut off, keeping debris clear from the building and other general maintenance while you’re away.
Regular check-ins during the period of unoccupancy is also a must. If you are out of town or unavailable for a quick pop-over, be sure to arrange something with a trusted friend, neighbour or family member.