If a loved one has passed away, or if they need to transition to a different living space, you need to decide what to do with the empty home.
For many people, what to do with the vacant property gets pushed to the back burner, and that is understandable. It is easy to feel overwhelmed with the burden of going through a parent’s possessions or trying to divide up a family legacy. There could also be legal complications if family members disagree on what to do with the property, or if the estate gets stuck in probate.
Risks Of Vacant Houses
Homes that are vacant for more than 30 days can create a serious risk to the homeowner, especially when there is no insurance to cover the vacancy. This is one reason we advocate selling empty houses as quickly as possible. Unoccupied or vacant houses can create issues that need to be considered, and addressed, as quickly as possible.
Most burglaries happen during the daytime between 10 am and 3 pm, to be exact.
Why? Because burglars prefer to work when houses are empty, and that is when most people are at work. If furnishings are still in place, an unoccupied home can become a prime target for break-ins. We recommend listing the property for sale or obtaining homeowners’ insurance that covers vacant houses immediately.
Empty houses are notorious for attracting vandals. Taggers, party-goers, and even squatters can quickly occupy an empty space. The ensuing damage caused by vandals could easily cost thousands of dollars to repair.
Vacant real estate can also be a popular choice for arsonists. It is important to reduce the risk of vandalism quickly by selling the property in a timely fashion.
When a house is unoccupied, there is no way to tell if there is a major disaster or system failure.
A small leak in the hot water tank can turn into a flood of water damage in just a few days. Water left running or heaters left on could cost thousands of dollars on a utility bill.
After the housing crisis of 2007, many communities passed nuisance ordinances that addressed empty houses. The ordinances were aimed at holding absentee homeowners liable for the upkeep of their properties.
Even if your town does not have an ordinance, it is still up to you to take care of the house. Keeping curb appeal can help maintain property value, too.
Understanding Insurance For Vacant Homes
Not having insurance is one of the largest risks to homeowners. But even if you have insurance, not every policy includes vacant house insurance. It is critical to consult with your insurance company to understand what coverage you do and do not have.
With many homeowner policies, a vacancy of more than 60 days triggers a host of exclusions and restrictions.
For example, damage caused by broken windows or vandalism isn’t covered by many policies. If vandals entered the property and burned the house down, you would not be covered. If a property has been vacant for more than 60 days before the accident, most insurance will not cover the incident.
In many cases, after 60 days of vacancy, the insurance coverage on the house can be canceled. Given that it can take up to 60 days for an estate to even be settled, keeping the vacant house any longer than necessary is never recommended.
While umbrella policies may cover yourself, they may not cover everyone that enters the home. Anyone that is doing work in the house should be covered under a liability policy. The policy should include any injuries on the property and keep the liability on the service provider, not the estate.
Protecting Yourself During Transition
Insurance policies may not provide adequate coverage to your vacant home, which is why it is important to sell quickly. At WayForth, we recommend that family members be aware of the exact coverages for the property or place the property up for sale.
Take the steps necessary to safeguard this valuable asset in order to protect your family’s legacy.