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HomeHome Insurance ResourcesThings to Know: Home Insurance When Away From Home

There is a lot to think about when planning a vacation. What often gets forgotten about is what is going to happen with the house while away. Most assume because they live in a great neighborhood everything will be fine. Not giving any thought as to how the home insurance could come into play regarding the home left alone while its homeowners are away on vacation.

The Difference Between Unoccupied and Vacant

One of the difficulties that come with insurance is understanding the terminology. Yet, this is critically important because that terminology plays a critical role in how insurance claims get paid out.

Unoccupied Home

  • An occupied home is only one that is empty of occupants for a short period. For example, when everyone that lives in the home is going on vacation.

Vacant Home

  • A vacant home is one where there are no expectations that the homeowners are going to be returning to the home to inhabit it once again. A good example of this is when a homeowner sells their home, or buys another one and empties the original home with no intention of living in it again in the future.

Why Does Your Home Insurance Provider Care if You Are On Vacation?

Sand Beach The Coast

It is generally assumed that when the house is occupied the homeowners are going to be aware of any potential danger. They would be able to respond quickly and in most cases mitigate any damage that may be occurring. If they are not there then the potential damage could be devastating, for example, like a burst pipe.

Homes Checks While On Vacation

At the same time, home insurance providers cannot put such rigid restrictions on the insured to the point where they cannot leave the home unoccupied for a period of time. So basically they have made a compromise. Which is writing into the policy that if the home is going to be unoccupied for a period of time, the homeowner must have a responsible person carry out a home check.

How Often Does a House Have to Be Checked for Insurance Purposes?

Detective Checking

Every insurance company sets its own in-house mandates for what will the home insurance policies contain. The common problem is that most do not read their insurance policies in their entirety. It is safe to say that most home insurance policies in Canada will have a clause that pertains to what is required if the home is going to be vacant. Some of the stipulations may be;

  • Proper steps were taken to reduce the risk of burst pipes during the heating seasons.
  • That a responsible person was given the task of inspecting the home if it was going to be unoccupied for more than four days. Some insurance companies may insist on this for three days of un-occupancy.
  • There may be a specific requirement for how often the house has to be checked.
  • There could be requirements to have a water sensor installed.
  • It could be written in that it is mandatory that you advise the Insurance company that you are going to be away
  • There could be stipulations that the main water source has to be turned off and all pipes are drained.
  • A stipulation could be that the heat must remain on during what is considered the cold months.

Unoccupancy For Other Reasons

A home may not necessarily be unoccupied because a family is going on vacation. There are some individuals who end up sick and could be hospitalized for more than four days. So, how does the insurance company handle this? Unfortunately, the Insurance company is not likely to make exceptions for this.

In a CBC article there was a classic case of a house being left unattended due to the homeowner leaving home to stay closer to the hospital for her treatment. A pipe burst in her home during this time creating substantial damage.  The article went on to say…” But Grey Power denied Scotland’s insurance claim, citing a clause in the policy that Canadians who leave their homes unattended for more than four days in the winter are not eligible for coverage for water damage unless they appoint a responsible person to check the heat inside every day.” Source: cbc

Let Common Sense Prevail

So many people are concerned about contacting their home insurance company for anything outside of having to make a claim. Many assume that if they make an inquiry or notify, that they are going to be away, their premiums are going to go up. What they are forgetting about here is that it is their home and personal belongings that are the concern.

The Insurance company is concerned about costs. But, the homeowner has to give some thought as to the potential loss of all their belongings. There are many items that simply cannot be replaced. So although the insurance companies are not thinking about your best interests, the demands that they are making do serve you well.

Creating a Safety Check List When You are Going to Be Away


  • The first thing is to check your insurance policy to see what the requirements are
  • In any event, check the pipes
  • Set the heat if it is during the winter
  • Set your lights on times
  • Tell your alarm company you are going to be away
  • Protect against power surges
  • Arrange for someone to check the home at various times each day. Not to use a set pattern for this has thieves watching a house will detect this
  • See if someone will take on the outdoor maintenance such as cutting the grass or snow removal.
  • Arrange for someone to pick up the mail

Other Types of Home Checks

Something else to keep in mind is that the away from home is only one type of home check the insurance company may require. They may also insist on a home inspection before they will agree to insure. They can also require periodic home checks by their inspection experts to determine different factors that could be affecting the home insurance.

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