Vacant homes can be a target for vandals and thieves. Just this week I had a customer whose home in South Carolina was broken in to and the copper wire was ripped out of the walls by thieves. Another client in Florida faced a burst water pipe in their vacant home that went un-noticed for a couple of weeks causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage.
Unfortunately, some of these types of claims aren't covered by property insurance when a home is vacant. Frequently, a homeowner's insurance policy may exclude water damage or even fire damage when a home is vacant. Sometimes vandalism is covered but theft is not.
First, it is a good idea to know what your vacant home insurance policy covers, and more importantly, what limitations it has.
Secondly, if you have a home that is going to be unoccupied for a long period of time, it is a good idea to use these 10 tips to protect yourself.
10 Tips For Securing Your Vacant Home
- Make sure all doors, windows, and garages are locked to prevent unauthorized access. Many homeowners and vacant home insurance policies contain a “Secure Vacant Building Warranty” which requires you to secure your home or a claim could be denied.
- Turn off the main water valve to your home to prevent any leaks or pipe bursts or have your pipes winterized to prevent freezing. Not all property insurance policies cover water damage, especially if the home is vacant. Most vacant home insurance only covers specifically named perils and water damage is usually not one of them. There are also water monitoring alarms available that can call you if a leak is detected. Be sure to turn off your water heater or set it to pilot.
- Ask a trusted neighbor to watch the home and enter the home weekly. They may be able to spot potential fire or water hazards long before they become a problem.
- Have your yard maintained. You do not want your home to look neglected and be obvious that it is vacant.
- Make sure you regularly check your mail and remove newspapers or flyers from your mailbox, driveway and around your front door.
- Create a “lived-in” look for the home. Use automatic timers for lights and have someone periodically adjust the blinds.
- Install motion sensor lights in the front and rear of your home.
- Unplug all electrical appliances. If you have a gas water heater, turn it off or set it to pilot.
- Test smoke and burglar alarms.
- Set thermostat to maintain a continual temperature and so that it does not constantly run.