Question from Jennifer L. from Carmel:
My mom and dad head to Florida after Christmas, and their house sits empty until spring when they come back. Is their house OK insurance-wise or could we have a problem?
Response from Jamie Ianigro:
Congratulations to them, and I hope you get a chance to go visit and escape the Indiana winter. A couple of factors come in play when we talk about unoccupied homes and insurance.
Notice I didn’t say vacant homes.
Let’s start with the difference between vacant and unoccupied. Figuring out the difference between a vacant home and an unoccupied home is as easy as walking in the front door.
Unoccupied homes might be a little chilly or a little warm, but people are obviously still living there. It will look like someone could have just left or might be home shortly. A vacant home is going to be pretty much empty and it will be obvious that people are not living there. The fridge will be empty, most of the furniture will be gone, etc.
Insurance carriers will not insure an unoccupied home and a vacant home at the same price or coverage levels. A vacant dwelling requires a special policy and is much more costly than a common homeowners’ policy. Your independent insurance agent can help you find a vacant home policy or elaborate further if you think your home might be vacant.
Each insurance carrier is different, but you can start to lose coverages if your home is unoccupied for a certain period of time. The big two that usually drop off would be coverage for vandalism and coverage for losses caused by a plumbing failure like freezing pipes. These claims can both be costly, so it is very important to know and understand your policy provisions if you’re a snow bird. Coming back from a winter vacation to a ruined house can be made a lot worse by finding out your insurance carrier is denying all or major parts of your claim.
The important takeaway here is to make sure you understand your insurance policy before you fly south for the winter. Your independent insurance agent will be glad to go over it with you and clear up any confusion you may have.