A friend recently put her house on the market and moved away. The house is furnished, the utilities are on, and someone is tending the place. But nobody is living there.
By and by she heard from her insurance company, which had some questions. Insurance companies generally won’t be happy to discover that you’ve left without saying anything.
How did her company find out? Well, if you file a change of address, a sharp-eyed agent or insurance company employee might notice. Indeed, she filed a change of address.
That certainly could happen, according to Jay Wade of the J.J. Wade Agency in Davidson. He’s not her agent, but has walked me through this before. And her experience makes this a good time to revisit the issue of insuring vacant and unoccupied homes.
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First, in the eyes of your insurance company, there’s a difference between vacant and unoccupied.
Companies don’t like to insure vacant homes, and those who do it charge a lot. If you leave your house vacant, your company is likely to cancel the policy. Companies are more comfortable with unoccupied homes.
The differences are mostly common sense, Wade said. Vacant means there’s no furniture and nobody’s visiting. Utilities might be turned off. Unoccupied means the house is furnished, utilities are on, perhaps somebody’s checking by regularly. Vacation homes aren’t vacant; they’re unoccupied.
Standard homeowner policies in this state specifically limit coverage for vacant homes, but not for unoccupied homes.
Here’s what experts at the N.C. Department of Insurance say: “The standard N.C. Homeowners Policy does not provide coverage for vandalism and malicious mischief if the dwelling has been vacant for more than 60 days. The policy contains the same coverage exclusion for glass breakage if the residence premises are considered vacant. ... The standard N.C. Homeowners policy … does not address exclusions for dwellings that contain furnishings and are not occupied.”
In other words, moving out while your furnished home sells won’t automatically threaten coverage and claims.
If a relative lives close by and is checking regularly, he said, the company probably will consider that. An active, monitored alarm might make a difference.
With the proper answers, the company likely will continue coverage. To learn more, download “A Consumer’s Guide to Homeowners Insurance” at www.ncdoi.com. DOI answers questions on its new toll-free line, 1-855-408-1212.