Reviewed by Daniel Mirkovic

Updated February 23, 2024


va·cant | ˈvā-kənt

Definition: Of a home, having no occupants at present with no plans for occupants to return.

She wasn’t sure if her home was considered vacant while she was away on holidays.

What is a vacant home?

A vacant home is one that nobody lives in. It’s more than just a home that’s empty—your home doesn’t become vacant while you’re at work for the day.

When it comes to home insurance, vacant is a specific term that refers to a form of occupancy. If you look at your home insurance policy, you’ll find a clear definition of vacant as it applies to that policy.

Each home insurance provider may define vacant a little differently. But, you can expect that everyone considers a home vacant after the inhabitants have moved out with no intention to return.

“Intention to return” is important; when you go on vacation, you intend to come home (presumably), and so your home won’t be vacant. When you leave your cottage at the end of the summer, you may not be there for six-plus months, but you do intend to return in the spring.

Again, your own insurance provider will be able to tell you exactly when they consider a home vacant. For example, many require notice if you’re going to be away for more than 30 days—even if you intend to come back. Usually there’s no issue if you let them know, but there could be coverage implications if you don’t.

As an example, here’s the definition of vacant that a Square One policyholder would see:


Vacant means all occupants have left the home with no intention of returning and no new occupants have moved into it, regardless of the presence of furnishings or other belongings. In the case of a newly constructed home, Vacant means occupants have not yet moved into the home. In the case of a newly acquired home, Vacant means occupants have not moved into the home immediately after you take legal ownership of the home. (Some home insurance providers will consider a newly acquired home to be vacant if you don’t move into it with 7 days of taking possession.

Contrary to popular belief, the presence of furniture in a home has no bearing on whether it’s vacant. Vacant homes can be fully furnished, and occupied homes can be entirely unfurnished (though they wouldn’t be nice to live in).

Most providers don’t consider homes under construction or renovation to be vacant; they have their own categories. Similarly, a vacation home may not be “vacant” during the offseason, but it would require special coverage that factors in the long stretches of time during which it’s unoccupied.

One other thing to note:

The definition of vacant in home insurance is different from the definition in other places—most importantly, vacancy taxes.

Many jurisdictions in Canada have a vacancy tax, which applies only to vacant homes. These taxes usually have a rather different definition of vacant. For example, Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax applies to any property that’s unoccupied for more than six months during the tax year, regardless of the occupants’ plans to return.

So, a home in Vancouver could presumably be both vacant and occupied, depending on whether it was the government or an insurance company looking at it.

Vacant homes and insurance

Home insurance providers always need to know if a home is vacant. Vacant home face greater risks than occupied homes, which makes them more expensive to insure. If a home is vacant, there’s no one there to respond to potential issues, and those issues could quickly spiral out of control.

For more information on vacant homes and home insurance, visit our guide to insurance for vacant dwellings.

The important points

  • Vacant means a home has no one living in it, and the occupants have moved out with no intention to return.
  • Insurance providers define vacancy differently, so it’s important to know what your policy requires of you if you’ll be leaving your home for an extended period.
  • Vacancy is just one category of occupancy; homes under construction, vacation homes, and other things that sound like vacancy may, in fact, have their own categories, depending on the insurance provider.

Looking for another insurance definition? Look it up in The Insurance Glossary, home to dozens of easy-to-follow definitions for the most common insurance terms. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.

About the expert: Daniel Mirkovic

A co-founder of Square One with 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, Daniel was previously vice president of the insurance and travel divisions at the British Columbia Automobile Association. Daniel has a bachelor of commerce and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. He holds a Canadian Accredited Insurance Broker (CAIB) designation and a general insurance license level 3 in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.


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