Does Basic Homeowner Insurance Cover Vandalism?

Insurers may reject vandalism claims when homes are vacant.
Insurers may reject vandalism claims when homes are vacant. (Image: Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Basic homeowners insurance policies usually cover property damage caused by vandalism. However, homeowners may lose their coverage under a basic policy if their properties are vacant for a significant time. Insurers restrict and even discontinue coverage for unoccupied homes.

Basic Policies

Homeowners may have trouble filing vandalism claims if they have left their homes unoccupied for extended periods. According to the Insurance Information Institute, it's not uncommon for homeowners to buy a new house before selling their old one in a slumping real estate market. Some homeowners leave the old home because they can't find a buyer fast enough as home sales slow. However, they risk having their homeowners insurance policy discontinued. The U.S. Federal Reserve Board estimates that the cost of homeowners insurance ranged from $300 to $1,000 in 2010, with a median cost of $744.

Vacancy Problems

Insurers usually discontinue coverage on a home if it's left vacant for more than 30 days. The Insurance Information Institute website notes that vandals are more likely to damage vacant houses because no one is around to stop them. That’s partly why some insurers don't insure vacant houses. People who want to protect a vacant home with the same type of coverage that a basic homeowners insurance policy provides need to buy vacancy insurance.

Reporting Vandalism

Vandalism is a crime, so you should report any property damage caused by vandals to your local police department. Some residents can report vandalism and other non-emergency crimes online at their local police department’s website. In any case, your home insurer may ask for a police report to verify your claim before paying out any money to repair damage from vandalism.

Vacancy Policies

The Insurance Information Institute indicates that homeowners can expect to pay 50 to 60 percent more for a vacancy policy than they pay for basic homeowners insurance. You may be able to reduce the cost of insuring an unoccupied house if the home has a burglar alarm system, deadbolt locks, smoke detectors and other devices that might deter vandals. The amount of time the home is vacant also affects the cost of a vacancy policy.

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