Protecting Your Vacant Property
Vacant properties are actually very common, we see them quite regularly. You might have a property that fits this description without even knowing it, let’s lay down some rules to better help you understand what is considered vacant, and what insurance you require to protect it.
Most assume that Home Insurance will cover them or extend, this is true but only up to a certain point. It’s crucial to understand the difference between an unoccupied property and a vacant one, and how it affects your policy and what can cause it to be voided.
When it comes to your vacant property stay in touch with a broker. If you find yourself leaving a dwelling unoccupied for over 30 days we can walk you through what your policy covers, and what you need to do to protect your investment moving forward.
What Qualifies a Vacant Property?
The term “Vacant” can get a little tricky as it can describe varying levels of emptiness. Let’s break it down a little bit further for specific situations that you might encounter.
- Having a gap in tenants during a slow period or the off-season at your rental property.
- Maybe you’re moving into a new home and your previous one is sitting empty while you wait for it to sell.
- The newly constructed building or a home you recently purchased but haven’t moved into yet.
- Pandemics. Out of province dwellings that you’re unable to visit due to travel restrictions and border closures.
- Hello, Snowbirds! Looks like you’re heading south, leaving that winter weather behind.
What Qualifies an Unoccupied Property?
If your ultimate goal is to return to the property it is now considered “Unoccupied”. If you never intend to go back to that property it is considered “Vacant”. A vacant property is any place where all occupants have moved out and they have no intention of returning to live there, and no new occupant has taken up residence. This applies regardless of whether it’s furnished.
This is where a broker comes in, even an unoccupied property can find it’s way into the vacant category. Tricky right? Different insurance companies can follow slightly modified rules, so it’s better to have a keen understanding of the company you’re with when it comes to your specific coverages.
- Call your broker: Provide advance notice that your home will be left vacant or unoccupied for a certain period of time.
- Vacancy permit: If you’ll be away for more than 30 consecutive days, this may be required on your policy. Sign and send the paperwork back to your broker.
- Regular maintenance: Have a trusted friend, neighbour or family member conduct regular and ongoing walk-throughs during the period when it remains unoccupied or vacant. Consider creating a detailed checklist to help them out.
- Water supply: Shut off your main water supply valve to help reduce the chances of a rupture or leak.
- Security: Take steps to ensure your home is secure and protect it against vandalism and burglary. Consider a monitored security alarm system, video surveillance system and exterior motion sensor lighting. Put interior lights on a timer so it looks like someone is home.
- Mail: Part of maintaining the property and avoiding that ‘abandoned look’ is picking up the mail, especially if it’s in a front yard or door-side post box, or if packages are delivered outside the door.
- Lawn care: Ensure the yard is properly maintained so the property looks like people are always around. Have a friend or family member mow the lawn in summer or shovel the walkways in winter.
- Alarm maintenance: Test all fire protection and detection systems to make sure they’re in good working order.
- Winterization: For those colder months, make sure the home is winterized with adequate heating to prevent pipes from freezing. If the heat is turned off, ensure all systems containing water are drained.
- Mice and more: Take steps to minimize exposure to vermin infestations. Have your trusted friend or family member check the property for foul odours, pest droppings, nesting materials or strange noises. Set traps if needed, and call an exterminator if there’s evidence of animal activity.
- Share your list: Provide this checklist to anyone looking after your property while you’re away. Keep a digital copy on your phone for easy sharing, and you’ll have one less thing to remember.
Remember, when protecting your vacant property problems can easily escalate, especially when no one is checking in regularly. There is the matter of property destruction and loss. A vacant structure can become a target for burglary, vandalism, water damage, and even unwanted visitors four-legged or otherwise.
When it comes to insurance, malicious or accidental damage outside of your policy terms can have unwanted consequences. It’s ALWAYS best to discuss your intentions with a Broker before you make a final decision on what to do with your property, better covered than sorry.