If you have a second home that is used only seasonally (or occasionally), or if you have one home but travel for long stretches of time, it may surprise you to know that standard homeowner’s insurance policies typically do not honor claims for damage to homes that have been vacant or unoccupied for a few weeks or more. In fact, if the insurance carrier discovers that the property has been vacant for more than 30-60 days, your policy can even be canceled.
First, let’s distinguish between vacant and unoccupied properties. A vacant home has no furniture or personal property in it. An unoccupied home has personal property in it but is currently not inhabited.
If you own a seasonal or vacation home in Florida that you visit for short stints or for a few months a year, your carrier will either write a separate policy —or simply endorse your standard homeowner’s policy for that type of occupancy.
On the other hand, insuring a vacant home is seen as a very big risk for the carrier and the specialty insurance required for that can be extremely expensive.
Some insurers will ask the question —right on the application, about whether there is someone who lives within a certain number of miles and is visiting the property regularly. And they may require it as a condition of coverage. That’s where a Home Watch company comes in. This professional certified by the National Home Watch Association makes regular in-person visits to the home, conducts a detailed visual inspection of the interior and exterior of the property and sends an electronic follow-up report with written and photographic documentation.
Additionally, if your property sustains damage from vandalism, theft, burglary, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes, mudslides, hail, wind, smoke, fire, lightning, burst pipes, or any kind of storm or natural disaster, your insurance carrier will want written and photographic documentation of the damage as soon as possible. And it may take their company adjuster some time to get there and document the damage to yours and perhaps hundreds of other homes. A Home Watch pro can put you at the front of the line as soon as it is safe to travel, communicate with you directly, and provide documentation for both you and your insurance carrier.