Sometimes there are little idiosyncrasies to insurance policies that might seem really unusual to the average person. The occupancy clause is just such a quirk of the home insurance policy that can potentially bar you from coverage. Did you know that most home insurance policies actually require you to live in your home? It doesn’t mean that you have to be there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but it does mean that you generally have to reside in the home for insurance to apply. One of the main reasons is that an empty home tends to be a more likely candidate for damage than an inhabited home.
Now that I have your attention, your first thought might be, “What happens if I go on vacation?” Well, that all depends the length of your vacation. If you’re like the average American, you probably have two weeks of vacation each year and those 14 days aren’t going to void your policy. On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to have a longer vacation, you’ll need to consult with your insurance company before locking up the house. Most policies will specify a 30-day period of vacancy as sufficient to trigger coverage exclusions. Insurance companies don’t like vacant homes because they are often targets for thieves and vandals. Once it’s known that your house in unoccupied, the likelihood of it being broken into increases. However, there are some things you can do to prevent these problems and also to keep your insurance intact.
Your first step should always be a conversation with your insurance company. Instead of making assumptions, call the insurer and find out what their policy is regarding vacant homes. After all, some houses are inevitably going to be vacant, such as vacation homes. Those homeowners have to keep their homes insured even when they are gone for what can be months at a time. It’s possible your insurance company will make an exception or they might reclassify your policy to one for homes that are sometimes vacant. Whatever the solution, you definitely need to notify your insurance company.
Meanwhile, there are also some things that you can do to make your home less of a target when you’re away. Consider asking a friend or family member to stay at your home to keep an eye on things. Of course, your best bet is to ask someone for whom a stay at your house would be considered a treat over the regular living situation. For example, I live by the beach and I have lots of friends who love coming to visit because of the proximity to sand and surf. It’s usually not too difficult to find one of them willing to spend some time down at the beach. It ends up being a win-win situation when you have your house being taken care of while someone else gets a mini-vacation.
There are certainly several ways to handle a vacant home. The worst thing you can do is to leave your house vacant without making any insurance or other arrangements. However, with a little diligence and planning, you can go vacation with some peace of mind.