YOU ASK:

If you lock up your house and leave on a trip for 30 days or more is your homeowners insurance 'in peril' because the home is 'unoccupied'?

WE ANSWER:

Yes, most policies specifically state that this is one of the grounds for cancellation of your policy - to leave your home unoccupied for 30 days or more.

You see, an unoccupied house, as far as the insurance company is concerned, is a riskier proposition, something that they did not bargain for when they agreed to issue you the policy.

Here are some of the reasons why an unoccupied house is considered riskier:

  • It is more prone to acts of vandalism or theft. If people see an unoccupied house (where no one will report any misdeeds), they will be more tempted to break in to steal or vandalize the home. There is also a higher potential for squatters.
  • The risk of liability is increased. People are more likely to be tempted to enter the house and be injured while inside your house. Even if the homeowner is not there when the injury happened, he is still liable for the event. That means that the homeowner will tend to turn to his policy for help in paying a liability suit.
  • The risk of damage is also increased. While you are out of your home, something may happen to cause damage not just to the structure but also to the home's content. If the house is unoccupied, no one is there to take immediate action in order to minimize the extent of the damage. For instance, if a pipe breaks and spurts water, if something is not immediately done, it may flood the whole house and cause more damage, much more than the insurance company should have paid.
  • The risk of fire is also increased. For instance, there is no one there to act on an electrical problem that could cause a fire.

To make sure that your homeowners insurance coverage stays put, you should notify your insurance company about any plans to leave the home unoccupied. You can request for a vacancy permit, but this will only provide limited cover and will not protect against water damage, theft or vandalism. Most insurance companies will give you a certain number of days before they will cancel your policy.

You may need to shift coverage from a homeowners insurance policy to a vacant house coverage. However, you must note that a vacant house coverage will be more expensive due to the increased risks.

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