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Tips for Unoccupied or Vacant Homes and Properties


When properties are left vacant or are unoccupied, steps should be taken to help mitigate and prevent losses due to heating or electrical systems, water damage, vandalism or other causes. Help keep your clients and their families safe by sharing the following loss prevention tips:

Heating and Electrical Systems

1.  To help ensure the heating system is working properly and to reduce the potential risk of fire or freezing, the system should be cleaned and inspected by a contractor.

2.  If liquid petroleum gas, propane gas or oil heat is used, check fuel take levels often to prevent running out.

3.  If the home is not to be heated, to reduce the risk of malfunction or explosion, have the fuel turned off at the main shut-off valve. The valve should also be checked periodically to ensure it is functioning properly.

4.  At least once a week, the home should be checked to ensure the heating system is operating properly.

5.  Check to ensure the electric power is not off since this will shut down the heating system. Inspect main electrical panel, wiring and outlets and repair or replace any defective or deficient items.

6.  Chimneys should be inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned to ensure that they are free from obstructions such as nesting birds. To help prevent any infestation, install chimney guard screen-caps.

Water Damage

1.  If the heating system will be turned off completely, to prevent freezing damage, have the plumbing system drained (or properly winterized).

2.  If the hot water heating system or water pipes will not be drained, install a water flow and low temperature sensor into a centrally monitored alarm system. Be sure to keep the thermostat at a consistent temperature throughout the winter months.

3.  If the water will not be turned off, to prevent a water damage loss, shut off the dishwasher and washing machine hoses. Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls; the water supply will be less likely to freeze. To prevent fires, if a heat tape is used on piping, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely. Open cabinet doors to allow heat from the room to move into concealed spaces. Also, drain and shut off outdoor water faucets to prevent freezing damage.

4.  If a separate hot water heater is present, inspect for leaks. If located in an earthquake area, confirm it is retrofitted (strapped to the adjacent wall).

5.  Check weather-stripping, insulation, as well as exterior doors and windows to ensure no deficiencies are present. Water and insects can enter through these openings.

6.  Inspect your roof for any evidence of damage. Replace or repair damaged, worn or missing shingles to help prevent wind, or water damage that could result from ice that forms around the edges.

7.  Inspect your roof for ice dams. Ice dams may prevent melting snow from draining off the roof, which could back up and cause interior water damage to your home.

8.  Inspect attic and basement for any evidence of water damage or mold. Fix all leaks, keep appliances clean and increase ventilation to prevent the growth of molds and bacteria. This can also help reduce the potential of invasion from unwanted insects or rodents.

9.  Gutters and downspouts should be checked and if necessary, cleaned. Clogged gutters can cause water to channel improperly which can result in basement flooding and interior wall damage. Check your gutter downspouts and extensions to make sure water is diverted away from the house and does not pool next to the foundation.

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Please contact me to discuss all of your insurance options, including specific needs for vacant homes.

Andrea Romo

Sales Associate | Woodland