As a landlord, there may be instances when your rental property is empty for extended periods of time. Perhaps your property is undergoing major renovations, or acquiring new tenants is taking longer than anticipated. For whatever reason, if you find your rental property vacant, you may think that it no longer needs insurance.
Your existing homeowner’s insurance may not be sufficient to cover the damages that occur to a vacant property. In that case, you may need to obtain an additional insurance policy for your unoccupied home.
What is a Vacant Property?
Insurance providers define a vacant property as one that has not had occupants living inside of it for an extended period of time. Oftentimes, they are used synonymously with the term “unoccupied property” but in the world of insurance, “vacant” and “unoccupied” are entirely different concepts.
Vacant properties are those that do not have personal property, such as a bed, chair, and table, where people can live. On the other hand, unoccupied properties are furnished homes, however, the current homeowner is not living there at the time. Unoccupied properties are common among homeowners who have vacation homes that they retreat to in the summer months.
If you have rentals that currently aren’t being occupied, you should consider getting vacant property insurance. However, if you are a homeowner who has several residences, you should get unoccupied property insurance.
What is Vacant Property Insurance?
When a property is vacant, it is at higher risk of damage, theft, and vandalism. Vacant property insurance is designed to safeguard properties that are vacant for a long period of time. Even if you have homeowners insurance, in most cases, its coverage ceases the moment the property is left vacant for over thirty days. This means that if you moved out a month ago, your home may no longer be covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. When your homeowner’s insurance expires, you will have to cover the costs for damages.
If your rental property doesn’t have any tenants lined up or is undergoing refurbishing before being listed, getting vacant property insurance is extremely important. Vacant property insurance covers properties that are vacant for more than thirty days. Some insurance providers even offer policies that last up to a year.
Vacant property insurance can protect your investment property from damage related to the following:
- Fire and Lightning
- Hurricanes and Hail
- …and many more.
It covers almost all types of damage that could occur when the home is empty, however, it does not cover everything. For instance, if your property is in a flood-prone area, you may have to purchase additional flood insurance. Be sure to check the fine print to check the exact list of perils that are covered by your insurance. A property manager can also help you identify the right kind of insurance policy that your vacant property needs.
Who Should Get Vacant Property Insurance?
Vacant property insurance is the type of coverage that you need only for specific situations. Below are some situations that may require you to obtain vacant property insurance:
- You own a rental property that currently doesn’t have prospective tenants
- Your rental property is undergoing extensive renovations and repairs
- You lease your property only during certain seasons (e.g. to student tenants during the academic year which typically runs from September to May)
- You recently purchased an investment property but aren’t sure what to do with it yet
- You own a vacation home that you use for only a few months every year
- You are selling your home and need extra time to prepare it for sale
As a landlord, your objective should be to reduce vacancies as much as possible. In that case, aside from obtaining vacant property insurance, you should hire a property management company. They can help you find prospective tenants so that you don’t have to spend another month watching your investment property generate zero returns.
What are the Common Risks of Keeping a Property Vacant?
Whatever your reasons are for keeping your property vacant, you must be aware of the dangers involved to minimize the consequences:
#1 Theft and Vandalism
You may be thinking, “What can a burglar steal from an empty house?” Although the property may be empty, burglars can still get their hands on many items of value. From aluminum pipes to AC components, burglars can rip the house apart to steal components that can be resold or repurposed. Consider locking up the property and installing security cameras to prevent theft from happening.
Vandalism is one of the most common issues with vacant rental properties. Aside from having clean walls to vandalize, vacant properties shield vandals from the eyes of authorities. They’re less likely to get caught vandalizing a home than in a public space.
Fire can destroy your investment property in seconds. What makes it more serious is that no one is around to report the fire, putting those living in close proximity in grave danger.
Vacant properties are more vulnerable to fires since their heating systems go months (even years) without proper maintenance. The heating systems may contain combustible materials that will result in an explosion.
Vacant properties are also at risk of arson. All it takes is for someone to break inside and light a match. Some intruders may intentionally set the property on fire.
Vacant properties lure squatters, especially if the property has appliances. In some cases, some squatters may even invite other squatters to live in the property and collect rent from them.
Squatters can be difficult to remove from a property because the law grants them certain rights after a certain period. If they refuse to leave, you will have to go to the courts to resolve the issue legally.
While getting vacant property insurance may safeguard your property from risks such as theft, fire, and vandalism, as a property investor, your goal should be to maximize your investment. To do this, you need to find prospective tenants quickly.
At Luxury Property Care, our property managers aggressively list your property on multiple high-traffic websites including the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). In addition, we make use of modern marketing methods to ensure that the property reaches as many prospective tenants as possible.