Is the property insurance void if you are abroad for 30 days?


The last days of summer are fast approaching, and snowbirds and travel-lovers will soon start closing up their Canadian homes to venture to warmer abodes. If you're among them, you may be likely to notify Canada Post, your pals as well as your landline, internet and cable suppliers that you will be gone.

But wait – did you remember to also tell your property insurance provider that you'll be out of town? You may have heard that whenever a home remains empty for Thirty days or even more without anyone to check up on it, your insurance company could void your policy if you do not let them know you're gone plus they discover. But is this actually true? We consult an insurance expert to determine whether your snowbird to-do list needs to include telling your insurance provider that you are, say, headed to Arizona for five months.

Unoccupied vs. vacant homes

Before we discuss the 30 day rule, it's important to clarify the word what that insurance firms prefer to use.

At first glance, these two words – “unoccupied” and “vacant” – seem like synonyms for “no one's home”. But because a matter of fact, they mean different things when it comes to property insurance policies. In insurance terms, “unoccupied” implies that who owns the home intentions of returning after Thirty days. The furnishings and appliances are still in your home and utility payments continue to be active.

In contrast, “vacant” means that the owner has abandoned the house: they've removed any furniture and appliances and turned off the utilities. If your home is assumed to be vacant, then your property insurance policy could be voided.

Cottages don't come under “vacant” as they're considered recreational or secondary homes.

The 30-day rule as well as your home insurance policy

According to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), there are specific activities that may cause you to a riskier customer within the eyes of your house insurance carrier, or even void your house insurance policy altogether. Being away “for a long time without someone checking on your house” may void your policy, says FSCO. Note using “may” and “could”, though; the probability of getting your policy cancelled will vary from provider to provider.

At Intact Insurance, for example, you don't have to notify your company if your house is unoccupied for more than Thirty days and also you plan to go back to it. Still, Patricia Sagl, director of personal lines at Intact, recommends that homeowners take certain precautions before leaving their house for longer periods.

“Owning a home includes security, pride and, obviously, responsibility. As probably the most critical investment you will ever make, protecting it is obviously important, especially when you're travelling for very long amounts of time,” says Sagl.

Sagl's recommendations include:

  • Having a competent person look into the home regularly while you're away, and setting a computerized timer for interior lights.
  • Installing monitored alarm systems or sensors for theft, water, temperature, fire and deadly carbon monoxide. Also, be sure that the devices are fully operational.
  • During the heating season, placing non-toxic antifreeze within the plumbing fixtures, pipes and drains to avoid cracks within the drain pipes or porcelain fixtures if the heating system fails.
  • Doing routine maintenance: cut grass, collect newspapers, install motion-sensor lights and take away snow and add salt to premises and attached sidewalks. This prevents your home looking presentable and acts as a theft deterrent.
  • Alerting your landlord regarding your travel plans.
  • Turning off your water, unless it is necessary for hot water heating systems. Do not forget that cold and hot supply lines and toilet tanks should be drained as well.
  • Disconnected all your appliances.

So, do you have to tell your insurance provider that you'll be gone for a few months?

No, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to provide them a call to let them realize that you have made arrangements to possess someone check up on your home and also to continue paying your payments.

Better safe than sorry.