Do You Own a Broward County House or Condo That Is or Will Be Vacant? If So…
Make sure it’s properly insured.
There are many reasons why a house might be vacant, whether for a month or a season.
- Your house may be vacant because you just moved to a new home and have put it on the market.
- It might be vacant because you just purchased a vacation home and won’t be moving in for a few months.
- It could be vacant because you just left on a 3-month round-the-world cruise.
- It might be vacant because you’re remodeling or renovating and have moved out for the duration.
- It could be a rental that needs some work before you find a new tenant.
- You may be the executor of an estate and have a vacant home to sell.
Whatever the reason, if it's vacant, the house is at risk. The perils include:
- Vandalism. A vacant house is a magnet for kids looking for a place to party.
- Theft. If the vacant house is your primary residence, filled with your belongings, it becomes an attractive target for thieves, especially if you or someone in your family has posted about your absence on Facebook.
- Critters. A family of raccoons or other furry creatures can do a great deal of damage. So can a family of birds.
- Squatting. This could not only cause damage to your house, but could embroil you in a legal battle when you try to evict the squatter.
- Water damage from a broken pipe, a leak that went undetected, or even damage to the roof.
A true story: I recently heard a story about two sisters who inherited their father’s house. The house was in North Idaho, where winters get cold. The sisters lived in warm climates, so didn't think about the danger cold weather presents.
After they inherited the house they spent a good deal of money replacing the carpets, repainting the interior, and finishing the basement. Then they added some furniture, had the house staged, and left it in the care of an agent who had been a friend of their father’s.
Winter came and the snow got deep. The agent didn’t have the pipes drained, choosing instead to leave the heat on. However, he didn’t have the drive plowed so the fuel truck could get in. Naturally, the tank ran dry.
He also didn’t check on the house over the winter. When other friends dropped by to take a look at the house after the snow melted in April, they found the door open and water running from the water pipes that had frozen and broken.
The floors upstairs were warped, but the basement was even worse. The sheetrock from the ceiling was floating in two feet of water.
And… the house was uninsured. The sisters said they didn’t think they had to get insurance because there was no money owed on the house.
Had the house been insured, the damage may or may not have been covered.
It would have depended upon the endorsements on the insurance policy. If they had obtained ordinary homeowners' insurance and then left the house unoccupied, they still would have been out of luck.
Your homeowners’ policy may automatically give you coverage for 30 to 60 days of vacancy, but even that isn’t guaranteed. So check.
Because a vacant house is a greater risk, insurance companies charge a premium for coverage.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore the issue and hope for the best. If you own a house that is or will be vacant, sit down with your insurance agent and go over the coverage. Have him or her show you your coverage in writing.
If necessary, pay the additional premium to make sure that yes, you are covered for damage, theft and liability. You need the liability insurance to protect yourself, should an intruder be injured while in your house – or while breaking in to your house!
Don’t let yourself end up like the sisters – with a house needing many thousands in repairs and no insurance to help with the cost.