Friday, August 6, 2010

The insurance risk of vacant homes

With homeowners coverage, it's easy to think of the risks that come with day-to-day use of a home. You could cause a cooking fire. The plumbing could spring a leak. Someone could fall off your deck at a party. And so forth.

The risks are less obvious, however, when the home sits vacant. The home has a higher risk of break-ins or trespassers on the property. There's no one around to call the fire department, gas company, police or plumber if something goes wrong -- and no one around to quickly spot smoke or other trouble signs.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, citing the nation's struggling housing market, this week put out a press release detailing some of these hazards and steps to take. Among the key points: Homeowners policies are meant to insure homes that are occupied. Some may not pay claims if a home is vacant for 60 days or more; others automatically reduce coverage when the home sits unoccupied for a certain period of time.

The good news: According to the NAIC, many insurers will let you pay extra for an endorsement that covers unoccupied dwellings. Click the link above for more details.

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