Vacant or Unoccupied: Your Property Coverage Depends

Last Updated:
March 22, 2019
Karen Spencer
Time to Read:

Year-over-year your life changes one way or another. Keeping your insurance broker informed with any life changes could save you time, stress, and possibly money with your insurance.

Keeping us in the loop will help ensure you have the proper coverage in place for your circumstances and risks. If you're a snowbird, someone who travels for work, or have even moved into a new home and still haven't sold your previous one, you should let your broker know.

Vacant properties have a host of risks and concerns associated with them. They are an obvious target for theft, trespassing, and vandalism. In addition to any loss or property coverage that may occur, keep in mind the owner of a property can be held liable for criminal activities or accidents that take place on the premises.

In addition, vacant properties are susceptible to undetected damages, such as fire, water damage, electrical explosions, wind or hail damage and mold. Many of these incidents occur in vacant buildings due to small, undetected maintenance issues (where someone in an occupied building would have recognized and handled the problem before it caused a larger loss).

What is an unoccupied dwelling? A dwelling you intend to return.

Ex. Someone who leaves their home in Ottawa to spend three months in Florida - their home would be considered an unoccupied dwelling. Even though they're not in town, they still intend to return after three months. A home is considered unoccupied if left for longer than 96 hours, for most insurance companies.

Tips for Unoccupied Dwellings

  • Call your broker and advise them of your plans
  • Turn off water and drain the pipes
  • Ensure your home appears occupied to help prevent theft/vandalism
  • Have someone check your mail
  • Have the driveway shovelled
  • Have your lawn mowed
  • Have someone check your home daily

What is a vacant dwelling? A dwelling you have no intention of returning (regardless of the presence of furnishings).

Ex. Someone who has purchased a new home and has moved into it, however has not sold the first residence. Because there is no intention of returning to the first residence, it is considered a "vacant dwelling". Staging a home is not considered occupied and will not change the status.

Tips for Vacant Dwellings

  • Obtain a vacancy permit from your insurance company
  • Note: There is limited coverage on a dwelling while considered vacant. Items not covered include vandalism, glass, water damage, or sewer backup
  • Insurance companies often require someone to check the property three times per week
  • After a period of time (often 6 months), an insurance company may decide to discontinue coverage on a vacant property

To ensure you have the appropriate coverage for you and your family, contact your broker at 613-236-9101.