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Did you know that leaving home for an extended period of time may leave your property vulnerable to not being completely covered by your current home insurance policy? According to your insurance provider, your home may be classified as “unoccupied” if you are away from home for a certain period of time. 

In this case, an unoccupied home insurance policy may be needed to ensure adequate coverage while you are gone.

What Is Unoccupied Home Insurance?

An unoccupied home insurance policy is a special type of insurance product that offers added financial protection against loss or damage of a property that is classified as unoccupied or uninhabited. 

While a standard home insurance policy will compensate you against perils like damage from fire, theft, vandalism, or liability when you are either home or away for a short time, it may not offer the same level of protection if you are away from an extended period of time. 

For instance, if you are gone for a couple of months and a fire breaks out, unoccupied home insurance would cover you when your standard home insurance policy might not. You can buy unoccupied home insurance as an add-on or as a separate policy. 

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Why Doesn’t My Regular Home Insurance Cover An Unoccupied Home?

The reason why this type of insurance may be required is that an unoccupied home poses a greater risk for your insurance provider compared to an occupied home. For example, if a pipe bursts or a fire breaks out when you’re not around, the response time to deal with this issue will be much longer. This can lead to extensive damage that may have been mitigated if you were home to deal with it.  

Further, there is a greater risk of theft and burglary, especially if it is known that you are away. This provides thieves with an opportunity to break in without the worry of you being nearby to interrupt. 

As a result of the heightened risk, insurance companies typically exclude these homes in standard policies. As such, homeowners may need to buy an unoccupied home insurance policy if they want coverage for a temporarily uninhabited home.

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What Is Considered Unoccupied?

What if you go on holiday for an extended period of time? Or what if you had to leave home unexpectedly to deal with a family situation or a last-minute job requirement that took you away from home for a little longer than expected? 

During these times, your home would likely be unoccupied for the time being, but would your property be considered formally vacant? And would your home insurance policy still be in effect?

To be classified as “unoccupied,” you would have to be away for an extended period of time, usually from 30 to 90 days. 

In this case, your home insurance may be void during that time. The exact period of time for which your home would be deemed unoccupied depends on your insurance provider, as they each have their own policies when it comes to the precise maximum time limit they allow homeowners to leave their properties while still providing full coverage. 

For this reason, it’s important that you check your current home insurance policy to verify your insurer’s limit.

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What’s The Difference Between ‘Vacant’ And ‘Unoccupied’?

Vacant and unoccupied can mean two different things to an insurance company. A vacant home is one in which the homeowner has no intention of returning and the furniture has been removed. An unoccupied home, on the other hand, means the homeowner has intentions of returning and the property is still adequately furnished for occupancy.

Are There Any Stipulations To Qualify For Unoccupied Home Insurance?

Most insurance providers will offer unoccupied home insurance. However, you may be required to follow certain rules in order for the policy to remain in effect. More specifically, you will have to ensure that the property is still maintained while you are away. This can include cutting the grass and ensuring the mail is picked up (or paused). 

Every insurer may have their own specific requirements when it comes to how the home is taken care of while it is unoccupied. You’d be well-advised to get in touch with your insurance company to find out the exact details before you leave for an extended period of time.  

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When Would You Need Unoccupied Home Insurance?

There are plenty of situations that may pull you out of your home for a long period of time, rendering your home in need of an unoccupied home insurance policy:

  • Taking an extended holiday to travel
  • Spending the summer in your vacation home
  • Vacating your home while it’s under renovation
  • Temporarily moving in with a family member who is ill or injured and requires assistance
  • Spending time in a medical facility to receive treatment

Any situation that takes you away from home for more than a month may require a phone call to your insurance provider to see if extended coverage on top of your standard policy may be needed. 

How To Avoid Or Save On Unoccupied Home Insurance

The key to leaving your home unoccupied is to keep it as safe as possible. By doing so, you may be able to save on unoccupied home insurance premiums or may even be able to avoid it altogether. Here are some ways to do that:

Get A House Sitter

If you know someone who you trust enough to stay in your home while you are away, you may be able to avoid having to take out a separate unoccupied home insurance policy. With someone in the home taking your place, the home will no longer be deemed unoccupied, and therefore, your standard policy will suffice. 

Install A Security System

Before you leave, consider having a security system installed in your home to keep it extra safe. Some people may be aware that your home is unoccupied, or perhaps there may be signs that no one is home. This presents an opportune time for thieves to break in. 

To deter them, install a security system that may consist of a monitored alarm or motion-sensor lights. Not only with this keep your home more secure, but it may also reduce the premiums paid on an insurance policy.

Have Someone Pick Up Your Mail

Piled-up newspapers and overflowing mailboxes are sure signs that nobody’s home. To avoid this, either have someone pick up your mail or newspaper deliveries on a regular basis, or put a temporary stop to them until you return.

Have Your Grass Cut

Hire a landscaping company or a neighbourhood teenager to mow the lawn every week to keep the property in good condition and to avoid making it look like your home is vacant. 

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How To Purchase Unoccupied Home Insurance

If you will be away from your home for a lengthy period of time and have established that an unoccupied home insurance policy is required, you can look to places like your bank, credit union, insurance companies, insurance brokers, or online aggregates for a quote. Otherwise, you can simply call your current agency that holds the home insurance policy for your primary residence for an add-on or separate policy. 

You’ll need to inform your insurance provider how long you plan to be away from your home and what measures you will be taking to ensure it is maintained and kept safe while you are away. 

It should be noted that this type of policy may be more expensive than a standard home insurance policy. That’s because of the added risk of an unoccupied home versus one in which homeowners are always present. 

Final Thoughts

Before you head out for an extended holiday or are planning to be away from home for longer than a month or two, you may want to give your insurance company a call first to see if there are any restrictions or limitations on how your current home insurance policy will work to cover you. 

If the time away from home means your current policy won’t cover you, then you may need to take out additional insurance to ensure that you are covered in case anything happens while your home is deemed unoccupied. 

Priyanka Correia avatar on Loans Canada
Priyanka Correia

Priyanka Correia is a Marketing Coordinator and personal finance expert at Loans Canada. Priyanka completed her Bachelor's degree in Marketing at Concordia University and has published work that has been mentioned in various news media. She is passionate about money management and educating Canadian consumers about how to take control of their financial lives.

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