In the world of home insurance, “vacant” and “unoccupied” are two very different terms. If a home is deemed to be vacant, most standard homeowner’s insurance policies exclude coverage for losses due to vandalism, theft, water damage and certain other types of perils. However, if a home is considered unoccupied, then the homeowner’s standard coverage applies.
So, if you own a vacation home in South Florida, is your vacation home considered vacant or unoccupied while you are away? What if you have moved but are still waiting for your old, now empty, house to sell?
Homeowner’s Insurance: Vacant vs. Unoccupied
As a general rule, a home is considered vacant for insurance purposes if it is not adequately furnished to sustain normal occupancy. However, some insurers also require policyholders to obtain vacancy permit endorsements if they will not be occupying their home for more than 30 or 60 days. So, if you own a house that is completely empty, it will almost certainly be considered vacant. If you visit your South Florida vacation home twice a year, you will need to work with your insurance company to make sure you have adequate coverage for all potential perils.
How much furnishing is required to prevent a home from being deemed vacant? The short answer is: It depends. If you own a studio condo on the beach, you may not need much more than a sofa and some basic kitchen supplies. If you own a multi-story single-family home, you will need enough furniture to make the home livable, although furnishing every room would likely be unnecessary. Once again, you should work with your insurance company to make sure you are covered, and you should document the furnishings in your vacation home or former residence at the time you obtain coverage.
Renovations With and Without Occupancy
Renovating a family residence or vacation home can raise questions regarding insurance coverage as well. If you are able to remain in the home during renovations, then your home generally should not be deemed vacant – even if you move out for a short period of time to escape the construction noise and inconvenience. However, if your home is undergoing a full-scale renovation and you need to move your belongings into storage or a temporary residence, then you will need to determine whether your insurance policy’s vacancy exclusion applies.
In any case, dealing with your insurance company after a storm or other casualty event can be a challenge. Your insurance company is likely to look for any justification to reduce or deny coverage, including claiming that your home was vacant. While insurance companies have an obligation to process policyholders’ claims in good faith, bad-faith insurance denials are common. If you have questions about your rights under your policy, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation at Saavedra | Goodwin
The Broward County insurance claim lawyers at Saavedra | Goodwin have decades of experience representing South Florida homeowners in disputes with their insurance companies. If you need help securing coverage and would like to speak with an attorney, you can call (954) 767-6333 or contact us online for a confidential consultation.