Protecting Your Property While You’re Away

With yesterday’s snowfall making me wish I wasn’t here to witness it, I thought it might be a good time to touch on leaving your property vacant while you escape, be it for weeks or months. Whether your property will be unoccupied for just a few days or for several months, make sure to update your insurance policy and protect your property. The same will apply to estates that are vacant while awaiting probate.

During the winter season, the risk of water damage to your vacant property increases substantially. The cold weather could cause pipes to freeze and burst quickly without anyone noticing. Water could run for days, even weeks, without your knowledge.

Temperature falls below zero, with lots of snow.

Temperature falls below zero, with lots of snow.

Reducing the Risk of Water Damage to Your Property

There are a few simple things you can do to reduce the risks associated with water damage for your home while it’s vacant:

• Turn off the water supply and drain the hot and cold water supply pipes. Don’t forget to flush the toilets to drain the tanks.
• During the heating season, put some non-toxic antifreeze in plumbing traps like sinks, tubs, toilets, washing machine and dishwasher drains. If there is any water left in toilet tanks, non –toxic antifreeze can be added to them as well. This will ensure the water won’t freeze and crack the drain pipes or porcelain fixtures in case your heating system fails.
• Consult a specialist about installing a temperature monitor to alert you should your heating system stop working. This is particularly important for hot water heating systems.
• You call also install water sensors to reduce the damage to your property if you do experience flooding or sewer backup. The sensor will be triggered if water levels rise above a certain level and it will turn off the water supply. Any water left in the pipes will still drain, but this prevents a continuous flow into your property.
• Inspect the property regularly to ensure the heating system is functioning and there has been no damage.

What About Other Risks?

It’s also a good idea to take steps to reduce other risks:

• Change the locks between tenants to prevent previous tenants from re-entering your property.
• Make the property look occupied by having the grass cut, the snow removed or automated lights installed. This helps deter thieves and vandals from targeting your property.
• Educate your tenants about the risks of leaving the property vacant and encourage them to keep you informed of their travel plans.

How About Insurance?

Insurance policies offer limited coverage for vacant properties due to the increased risk of potential damage. Policy conditions vary widely but there is typically no coverage for vandalism, theft, water escape, or glass damage starting on the first day of the vacancy. After the property has been vacant for 30 days, the entire policy becomes void and there is no coverage for any damage, not even fire or windstorm. My personal policy requires that I or someone else visits the property once every 5 days to maintain the vacant policy. Be sure to consult your insurance broker if you plan on being away for an extended period of time or own a property that is vacant.

Tina Pang

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