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Vacation home insurance: Protecting your second home

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Vacation homes have different exposures than your primary residence. If you want to protect your investment from property and liability risks, having the right coverage is critical. Whether it’s a beach house or a lakeside cabin, if you have a vacation home, you should invest in vacation home insurance.

Vacation Home Risks

Vacation homes are often in areas where wildfires, flooding or hurricanes are a possibility, so the risk of severe property damage may be high. The risk of property damage is also increased because vacation homes often go unoccupied for periods of time. Although having guests stay in your vacation home may seem like a safe way to keep the place occupied and monitored, this comes with risks as well.

Consider the following scenarios:

  • A leak develops in the roof. No one is there to see the roof, so water damage accumulates over a period of weeks, leading to mold and structural damage.
  • Children in the area play on your property while no one is there. One of the children is injured, and the parents sue you.
  • Squatters enter the unoccupied house. They cause damage to property, including a small fire.
  • You invite friends to use your vacation home. While the guests are there, one of them falls in the shower and is injured.
  • Raccoons get into the attic. Because no one is there to remove them, the raccoons damage the roof and ventilation.

Can you insure a vacation home under your homeowners insurance?

If you have a second home, you will likely need a second homeowners insurance policy. The insurance policy that you purchased for your primary residence likely won’t cover property damage to your vacation home. Purchasing insurance coverage specifically for the vacation home is the best way to make sure it’s covered against fires, storms and other perils.

Furthermore, if you’ve financed your vacation home, your mortgage lender will likely require you to purchase a separate home insurance policy for it.

You’ll need to pay an additional insurance premium. How much it costs will depend on multiple factors, including the location of the second property and your coverage limits. However, as the Insurance Information Institute points out, you may be able to reduce your premium and save money by bundling your primary and secondary homeowners insurance policies with the same insurer.

Vacation Property Insurance vs. Homeowners Insurance

According to Investopedia, insurance policies for vacation homes tend to be a little different from a standard homeowners insurance policy. Vacation homes can be seen as riskier, and as a result, some vacation home insurance policies offer more limited property insurance coverage on a named-perils basis. This means that only the perils listed in the policy are covered.

Some vacation property policies provide all-risk coverage, which means perils are covered unless they’re listed in the policy as being excluded. If this option is available and affordable, it will provide more protection.

Renting Your Vacation Home

AirBnB, Vrbo and other similar marketplaces have made it easier than ever to rent out your property so you can earn some extra income. This may seem like a logical way to get more use out of your vacation home when you’re not using it personally. However, there are risks and insurance considerations if you plan to rent your vacation house.

Some guests will be responsible and leave your property in good condition, but other guests could create nightmare scenarios. For example, guests could …

  • Throw wild parties.
  • Cause kitchen fires, break doors, clog toilets and cause other types of damage to the structure of your home.
  • Break or steal your private property, such as furniture, bicycles and dishes.
  • Refuse to leave when their stay is over.
  • Injure themselves and sue you.

Given these and other risks, it’s important to make sure you have suitable liability and property insurance. Your home-sharing platform may provide some coverage, but there may be limits and exclusions that mean you’re not fully covered. Commercial use of your vacation home can also impact your insurance policy, and this is something your insurer will need to know about.

Liability Coverage for Vacation Homes

Your primary residence homeowners insurance policy might extend some liability coverage to your vacation home. However, you should not assume that because some coverage exists, you don’t need separate liability coverage for your vacation home.

Vacation homes can involve significant liability risks, especially if they are rented out or have swimming pools, so carefully review coverage with your agent to ensure sufficient protection.

Your agent may advise you to purchase a vacation home policy that includes liability insurance and encourage you to purchase a personal umbrella policy for an added layer of coverage. Umbrella insurance can add liability protection over multiple property insurance policies as well as an added layer over auto and boat insurance.

Flood Insurance for Vacation Homes

Homeowners insurance does not provide coverage for flooding, and this is also true of vacation home insurance. If your property is located in an area with flood risks, your mortgage lender may require you to purchase flood insurance.

Even if your property only has a low or moderate flood risk, flood insurance may be a smart decision. According to FEMA, around 25 percent of all flood insurance claims occur in low to moderate flood risk areas. Flood damage can be devastating, and flood insurance can help you protect your investment. Additionally, if you’re in an area with lower flood risk, you’ll likely receive lower rates, making flood insurance an affordable option.

Earthquake Insurance for Vacation Homes

As with flood coverage, earthquake coverage is typically excluded from standard property insurance. In your vacation home is located in an area that is prone to earthquakes, you should consider purchasing earthquake insurance for your property.

Risk Management Practices for Your Vacation Home

Purchasing a vacation home can be a great investment for you and your family. Take proactive steps to avoid problems that could undermine that investment.

  • Research the risks before buying. It’s smart to look at the risks in an area before buying any property, whether it’s your primary residence or a second home. Look up information on wildfire, hurricane, flood, tornado, wind, winter storm and earthquake risks. If you decide to buy a property in an area with substantial risks, see if there are any home improvements that could help, and make sure you have the right insurance.
  • Keep your property well-maintained and monitored. Since you won’t always be around, you may need to hire a local service to perform regular landscaping and upkeep. It’s also important to have someone check out the property regularly for signs of pests, vandalism, roof damage and other issues.
  • Watch out for attractive nuisances. Attractive nuisances are elements that children find appealing but that can be dangerous, such as swimming pools. If children are injured on your vacation property, even if they are there without your permission, you could be held liable.
  • Install a security system. Unoccupied vacation homes can be targets for vandals and squatters. Security cameras and an alarm system can help keep your property safe from intruders.
  • Use a smart leak detector. Leaks that go unnoticed can waste water and cause property damage. A smart leak detector can help you identify leaks as soon as they start.
  • Turn off the water supply. When the vacation property is unoccupied, turning off the water supply can help prevent water damage from burst pipes and leaks.

Higginbotham can help you review your vacation home exposures so you can secure appropriate vacation home insurance. Learn more.

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