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  • Morse Insurance’s Guide to Unoccupied and Vacant Home Insurance

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What is unoccupied and vacant home insurance?

If you’re in the process of interviewing potential tenants for your empty rental property, living at your in-laws during a kitchen renovation, or waiting for one of your homes to sell, you should know your empty property may be susceptible to a new set of risks. Fortunately, if something were to happen, most are covered by insurance—but not by your run-of-the-mill home insurance policy.

Owning an unoccupied or vacant home requires extra coverage, above and beyond your standard home insurance policy.

The policy, like its name, unoccupied and vacant home insurance, is pretty straightforward; determining if you need it, not so much. As your local and independent insurance agent, Morse, of course, breaks down this critical coverage and answers commonly asked questions like what is it, who needs it, and how to get coverage, to eliminate the guesswork.

What is unoccupied and vacant home insurance, and what does it cover?

Most standard home insurance policies don’t cover properties that are left unoccupied or vacant for extended periods, and there’s a perfectly good explanation as to why. Empty homes generally present a higher probability of claims, due to slower-than-normal emergency response times and an increased threat of theft and vandalism.

For example, suppose you own a beach house in Falmouth, Massachusetts, that you live in part-time. If there were a fire while you weren’t residing there, standard home insurance would likely not pay out for the damages without unoccupied and vacant home coverage. A possible exception may be if your Cape house is covered by a specific secondary home or vacation home insurance policy. Morse, of course, always recommends you discuss your current property and liability coverages with your insurance agent to make sure you have the right insurance for your real estate investments.

Like most supplemental coverages, including home systems protection coverage, service line coverage, and water/sewer back-up protection, unoccupied and vacant home insurance picks up where your homeowners policy ends, to ensure you have ample coverage against common claims like fire, weather events, vandalism, and theft when you’re not living in your home full-time.

Do I need unoccupied and vacant home insurance?

A good rule of thumb is to add this coverage to any home that is empty, vacant, or unoccupied for more than 30 days at a time. Most people assume that unoccupied and vacant home insurance is synonymous with vacation properties, but that’s not always the case. There are other scenarios that warrant this coverage, too.

Perhaps you purchased a brand-new residence but don’t have plans to move in for a month; this extra home insurance is smart coverage to have in your back pocket should something out of your control happen.

The same is true for homeowners who travel for weeks or months at a time, are undergoing a medical treatment that requires them to spend time recovering at a hospital or medical facility, are remodeling and living elsewhere during the renovations, or are in between tenants at their rental property.

However, it’s important to remember that each insurance policy, coverage, and carrier is different. So, before you decide to purchase or not, speak with your trusted insurance agent to make sure. An experienced independent agent like Morse Insurance should review the specifics of your homeowners policy, identify the coverage gap, and explain how your carrier defines “vacancy” and “unoccupied” to you, because, believe it or not, there is a difference.

Is my home considered unoccupied or vacant?

Vacant and unoccupied—one and the same, right? According to the thesaurus, yes, but in the insurance world, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s actually a huge distinction between the two terms.

When it comes to home insurance coverages, a vacant property is typically one that doesn’t have any furniture, appliances, or personal property in it. On the other hand, an unoccupied home generally has utilities set up, is furnished, and is ready to be lived in.

No matter what kind of property you have, unoccupied and vacant home insurance should do the trick. However, the bucket your insurance carrier places your empty home in may affect the cost of your annual premium.

How much does unoccupied and vacant home insurance cost?

As with all insurance policies, the cost of your premium depends on multiple factors, including your insurance carrier, specific coverage, the location of your home, how much it’s worth, and the length of your policy term.

When it comes to unoccupied and vacant home insurance, in particular, the type of home you need to insure—vacant vs. unoccupied—will likely factor in as well. Generally speaking, a vacant property is more susceptible to weather-related, fire, theft, and vandalism claims than an unoccupied one and is, therefore, riskier (in your insurance carrier’s eyes) to insure, which is likely to be reflected in the price tag.

Extra coverage doesn’t always mean extra cost. Some of the top insurance carriers we work with offer packaged deals for multiple homes. For example, if you’re a snowbird and split your time between your two properties, you may be able to take advantage of a policy that covers part-time residency in two or more homes. Additionally, Morse, of course, can help you save money by bundling your personal insurance policies together, like your home and auto, and locating new discounts, such as adding a home security system and installing smoke alarms.

Morse, of course, is here to help you safeguard your home—vacant, unoccupied, well-lived-in, or otherwise.

Purchasing comprehensive home insurance requires more than just ticking a box.

Most of us buy this critical coverage because our mortgage companies or banks instruct us to do so, but your financers don’t scrutinize the coverage to ensure you and your unique life are adequately protected, nor should they. An independent insurance agent, on the other hand, will. Why, you ask? Because it’s our job to do so and is what separates us from the direct writers and insurance goliaths.

Your home insurance policy should be customized to your needs, and when you partner with Morse, of course, we will make sure that it is. Whether you need vacant home insurance, an umbrella policy, or extra coverage for your jewelry, fine art, and other cherished heirlooms, the independent agents at Morse Insurance have got you covered.

To learn more about standard home insurance, what it costs, what real-life events are covered, or other commonly asked questions, head on over to our home insurance page; it’s brimming with educational yet easy-to-understand information.

For a free quote or to speak with a local Morse Insurance agent, give us a call at 508-238-0056.