What you need to know about going on vacation & condo insurance

Are you planning to go away on vacation? If you are writing up the itinerary for your next adventure, make sure that your condo insurance isn’t glanced over. Even if you are simply moving out for a few weeks to make room for modifications or renovations, it’s important to consider what is going on with your condo in its period of vacancy to ensure that your insurance remains valid.

The first and foremost thing you should to do is get in touch with your condo insurer if you know that you may be leaving your condo vacant for a long period of time. There are plenty of reasons why your condo may need to stand empty – whether you’re waiting on a sale, you’ve got a summer job elsewhere, or you need to help an elderly parent through their transition to a retirement home. Whatever the case, it’s a good idea to let your condo insurer know of your plans.

Familiarize yourself with your condo insurance details

Both you and your condo association or corporation have insurance. Your insurance policy covers your liability and your possessions, as well as potentially any furniture and appliances in your home that are not original to your building (although this depends on your condo corporation and their coverage). Your condo association/corporation has what’s called a “master policy” which includes coverage for the common areas, pools, gyms, and hallways, as well as their liability. Your policy should be designed to cover any exposures that the master policy will not include coverage for.

Ensure you are aware what the regulations are surrounding vacancy for your condo insurance policy. For home insurance, your policy will not cover you if your home is vacant for over 30 days. In some cases, there could be special terms for vacancy – like having a house sitter or leaving our heating on, if your house is empty for the wintertime.

Other insurers may allow you to leave your house or condo vacant for up to 60 days in a row. Of course, this all depends on who you are insured with. Check to see if your condo coverage states anything about vacancy. It also doesn’t hurt to ask your condo association the same thing.

Why is it bad to leave your condo vacant?

From the perspective of your insurance company, your risk increases when your condo is unoccupied for a period of time. This is because no one is around to do proper maintenance or look after your condo as you would if you were present. Your condo may also become more appealing for burglars and thieves who won’t run into any issue if they were to break in. Your condo may be “just a condo” – but it’s still your home! It needs to be looked after, even if you’re not there.

Be prepared and keep your condo secure

Chances are, you leaving your condo vacant for several weeks or months isn’t something that just happens out of the blue. You have likely been planning your vacation for a while now, so chances are you have adequate time to plan or account for your condo’s vacancy. In this time, consider additional security, such as installing a security system, quality locks, and replace the batteries in your smoke alarms. You may also want to unplug all of your electronics – which can help to save on your electricity (if utilities is an extra cost for you) but it can also reduce the likelihood of a fire breaking out while you are away due to overheating.

You may also want to ask a neighbour to look after or check in on your condo from time to time. If you do have a house sitter, make sure they know how to navigate your alarm system and have all the necessary numbers in the event of an emergency. If something does happen while you’re away, your house sitter should be in the best possible position to deal with it as seamlessly as possible.

Finally, you may want to think about all the food left in your fridge. Many people don’t consider this – but your expired food could attract an unwanted infestation while you are away and unable to clear out the culprit before it’s too late. Throw out, eat, or give away any food that is likely to expire before your return date.

Bad things happen no matter what precautions we take, but it’s a good idea to be proactive – especially when we have the time to do so. Discuss with your broker about any additional measures you may need to take during your vacation.

Make plans to chat with your condo insurer

Before you head off, make sure to pick up the phone to talk with your condo insurer as soon as is feasible for you. You may be able to purchase temporary coverage for your period of vacancy which can supply reduced coverage (or coverage for the full amount) for your damaged or destroyed belongings in the event that there is an issue. If your condo insurer cannot offer anything that would help, there are insurance companies that exist who can offer unoccupied property insurance.

What if I need to make a claim for damages while on vacation?

Making a claim for any damages, losses, or theft while you are away on vacation is not any different than if you were to make a claim while you were present at your condo. You will need to call your condo insurer as per usual and discuss the situation with them. Make sure that when you leave for vacation you have your policy number with you and either a physical or digital copy of your insurance documents on your person so that there is not a risk of them being destroyed / damaged.