Is your property vacant? Make sure it’s still insured

Feb 4, 2014 2 minute read

A vacant property faces an increased risk when it comes to potential damage. Whether your property will be unoccupied for just a few days or for several months, make sure to update your insurance policy and follow a few simple steps to protect your property. This applies to rental income properties as well as your home or business.

During the winter season, the risk of water damage to your vacant property increases substantially. The cold weather could cause pipes to freeze and burst quickly without anyone noticing. Water could run for days, even weeks, without your knowledge. Your first indication might be your next water bill and damage could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Insurance policies offer limited coverage for vacant properties due to the increased risk of potential damage. Policy conditions vary widely but there is typically no coverage for vandalism, theft, water escape, or glass damage starting on the first day of the vacancy. After the property has been vacant for 30 days, the entire policy becomes void and there is no coverage for any damage, not even fire or windstorm.

To prevent your policy from becoming void, speak with your BrokerLink broker. We’ll outline your coverage and arrange for a vacancy permit so your property remains covered beyond 30 days. A vacancy permit offers basic protection against damage caused by fire, lightning, explosion, windstorm, hail and vehicle impact but still won’t provide coverage for vandalism, theft, glass damage, water escape or other perils. The permit may increase your premiums and can require you to pay higher deductibles in case of a claim. There may be also a requirement to inspect your vacant properties regularly so your insurance remains valid.

There are a few simple things you can do to reduce the risks associated with water damage for your vacant properties:

• Turn off the water supply and drain the hot and cold water supply pipes. Don’t forget to flush the toilets to drain the tanks.

• During the heating season, put some non-toxic antifreeze in plumbing traps like sinks, tubs, toilets, washing machine and dishwasher drains. If there is any water left in toilet tanks, non –toxic antifreeze can be added to them as well. This will ensure the water won’t freeze and crack the drain pipes or porcelain fixtures in case your heating system fails.

• Consult a specialist about installing a temperature monitor to alert you should your heating system stop working. This is particularly important for hot water heating systems.

• You call also install water sensors to reduce the damage to your property if you do experience flooding or sewer backup. The sensor will be triggered if water levels rise above a certain level and it will turn off the water supply. Any water left in the pipes will still drain, but this prevents a continuous flow into your property.

• Inspect the property regularly to ensure the heating system is functioning and there has been no damage.

It’s also a good idea to take steps to reduce other risks:

• Change the locks between tenants to prevent previous tenants from re-entering your property.
• Make the property look occupied by having the grass cut, the snow removed or automated lights installed. This helps deter thieves and vandals from targeting your property.
• Educate your tenants about the risks of leaving the property vacant and encourage them to keep you informed of their travel plans.

Don’t forget to inform your BrokerLink broker about current or upcoming vacancies for your property. We will work with you to determine the need for a vacancy permit so your investment is protected.