Insurance Coverage Rules When Going On Vacation

While you are away, your home is going to be empty. With nobody around, potential issues can spring up and if left untreated until you return home, could do serious damage. Extreme weather is becoming more commonplace: high winds, freezing rain and floods to name a few. Hot water tanks could break down or your air conditioning could malfunction causing water damage. Unfortunately, burglaries are also common when criminals know the house will be empty for an extended period of time.

It is not necessary to tell your insurer every time you go on vacation or leave your property empty for a period of time, but there are some important steps to take to ensure your coverage is valid when you are away from your home for more than four days.

During the usual heating season you must do one of the following, otherwise you will not be covered for water damage due to your water pipes freezing and bursting.

  • Have a trusted friend or neighbour check your residence every day to ensure that it is being properly heated, or better still ask a trusted friend to house sit
  • Shut off the water supply and drain the pipes
  • Install a water flow alarm system that is centrally monitored by an alarm company

If you are a property owner whose rented house remains vacant for more than a month, your insurance company can deny coverage for any losses such as fire or water damage. Owners can obtain a vacancy permit from their insurer so the coverage never ceases after the occupants have moved out. However, this add-on and often has some restrictions.

The primary difference between a “vacant” and an “unoccupied” property is whether furniture is inside, indicating the owner intends to return. Snowbirds, for instance, could still leave for months at a time, and their homes would be considered unoccupied.

The best way to protect your home, and ensure that your coverage can not be voided if you do have a claim, is contact your insurance company or broker to find out exactly what steps are required to maintain coverage under your policy.  Each insurance company differs. Your home insurer will let you know what is needed to keep your policy in force.