Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: May 19, 2022

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The Lowdown

  • While homeowners insurance offers vital protection for property owners, a standard plan typically does not cover rentals or second homes
  • You can buy landlord or short-term renters insurance if you plan on leasing your property out
  • Most insurance companies will sell you a policy for a home you don’t own, but payouts will always go to the homeowner

When you buy a home you intend to live in, homeowners insurance is straightforward. From dwelling coverage to liability, a homeowners policy will keep your property in good shape for years to come.

Insurance options get a little more confusing when you need to insure a house you don’t own or live in. Many Americans invest in real estate intending to rent homes out, while others use sites like Airbnb to provide vacationers an alternative to a hotel.

Some homeowners spend most of the year in one house and a few months in a vacation property. Others want to gift home insurance protection but aren’t sure if they can buy a policy for a house they don’t own.

Knowing where to start when looking for coverage can be confusing, especially if you’re new to owning property. Luckily, there are insurance products that will work for just about everyone.

However, finding the right insurance for a home you don’t live in or own requires some research. Learn more about your insurance options below, then compare prices with as many companies as possible to find the best plan for you.

Can you insure a house you don’t live in?

The traditional American dream is to own your own house. While that dream still drives Americans today, people are fulfilling a lot of other real estate dreams as well.

From house flippers to Airbnb hosts, insurance needs are more complex than ever. Unfortunately, a traditional homeowners policy typically doesn’t cover houses used for anything other than living in.

To meet the changing needs of property owners and renters, insurance companies offer a variety of policies similar to homeowners. These include:

  • Landlord insurance
  • Short-term rental insurance
  • Renters insurance

The coverage in these policies overlaps with much of a standard homeowners policy, but they offer specialized protection for your specific needs. The policy you need depends on what you plan on doing with your property.

What is landlord insurance?

As of 2018, individual investors owned 14.3 million rental properties, a massive share of the rental market. With real estate prices soaring, the business of renting a home out is growing more lucrative by the day. 

If you’re one of those property owners ready to find a tenant, you’ll first need landlord insurance. After all, your new renters might damage your property, and you don’t want to be stuck with the bill.

Landlord insurance is a special type of homeowners coverage for people who rent their houses to long-term renters. It offers the same coverage as homeowners, with a few extra considerations for landlords. The core parts of landlord insurance are:

  • Property damage. From the walls and roof that define your house to the fence that surrounds it, property damage protects physical structures. It also covers furnishings, like appliances and furniture.
  • Lost rental income. If your property becomes uninhabitable due to damage, your insurance will temporarily reimburse you the amount you’d normally be paid for rent.
  • Liability. This coverage helps pay for your legal bills if someone sues you after being injured on your property. It also helps pays for the injured party’s medical bills.

All landlord policies include these coverages to give you a package of protection. You’ll be ready to rent with a primary landlord policy, but there are add-ons you can purchase to increase the value of your plan. Every company is different, but the most common add-ons include:

  • Flood insurance. Homeowners and landlord policies typically do not cover floods, but water damage can be devastating. Flood insurance is a good idea if your property is in a flood zone.
  • Guaranteed income. If your tenant is short on rent for one month, this coverage will make up the difference.
  • Emergency coverage. As a landlord, the responsibility to handle emergencies falls on you. This coverage will help cover your travel expenses to take care of the problem.
  • Non-occupied dwelling. Many landlord policies specify that coverage ends if no one has lived in the building for more than 30 days. This add-on guarantees your coverage no matter how long the building is empty.

Add-ons allow your policy to protect you from a broader scope of the damage, but there is a drawback. The more you add, the more your policy will cost. Before signing up for any additional coverage options, make sure you need them.

Of course, an insurance agent will be able to answer your questions before your policy is finalized, and they’ll create a plan that suits your property perfectly.

What is short-term rental insurance?

Renting a home to a long-term tenant is the classic model of leasing property. However, sites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Tripping have made it easy to rent property to vacationers, travelers, and anyone looking to get away from home for a few nights.

You could technically be called a landlord when you rent your home for short periods. However, most landlord policies don’t cover damage caused by short-term renters. To fill this gap, many companies now offer short-term rental insurance.

There are two types of short-term rental insurance. The first is an add-on to a traditional homeowner’s policy. This add-on essentially extends homeowners coverage to your property no matter who is staying in it. It also adds coverage you wouldn’t normally need in a homeowners policy to account for the renters.

You can also buy a standalone short-term rental policy. Standalone policies offer similar coverage as homeowners and are particularly suited for properties strictly meant for renting.

No matter which type of short-term rental insurance you buy, it will likely include the following unique coverages:

  • Infestation (i.e., bedbugs)
  • Loss of income
  • Liquor liability
  • Excessive use of utilities
  • Identity theft

Short-term insurance isn’t as commonly available as other policies since the market is still emerging, but you still have plenty of options. Some of the most recommended companies for short-term rental insurance are:

  • Proper
  • Allstate
  • Foremost
  • Progressive
  • Nationwide
  • Farmers

One thing to note about short-term rental properties is that the company you host with might offer coverage free of charge. For example, Airbnb offers $1 million of liability coverage and will pay for damage done to common areas like lobbies.

That’s the extent of Airbnb’s coverage, though. The company does not cover most damage guests can cause to your home. Instead, you’re on the hook for any repairs and replacements. Although free coverage is never a bad idea, a short-term rental policy can save you a lot of headaches.

Can you have homeowners insurance on two homes?

While many Americans buy a second property to generate rental income, others have personal plans for them. Usually, second homes are for vacations or to give a family member a place to live.

The good news is that you can buy a policy for any home you own. Unfortunately, each home will need its own policy. You can’t add two (or more) homes onto the same plan.

However, many companies will offer you a bundling discount for buying two or more policies. Another benefit to buying from the same company is that your monthly payments will probably be on one bill.

Some companies require that you meet your deductible just once, no matter how many houses you have insured. This can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars if you need to file a claim on more than one property.

For the most part, rates for second homes are about the same as for first homes. The most significant difference is how much time you spend in the house. Insurance companies are wary of homes that sit vacant for extended periods. The longer the house sits empty, the higher your rates will likely be.

Insurance companies charge more because vacant homes are more likely to be targeted by vandals and thieves. Vacant homes are also more susceptible to damage because a broken pipe or damaged roof will go unnoticed for a longer time.

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Can you insure property you don’t own?

Generally speaking, you can insure a house you don’t own as long as you are closely related to the homeowner.

While people with a mortgage are usually required to have homeowners insurance, states do not require insurance coverage. Many people cancel their insurance once the house is paid off to save money.

If your parents, grandparents, or other close family members have chosen to discontinue their home insurance, you can buy a policy that will cover their home. If you decide to gift insurance, you’ll make the monthly payments, and their house will be covered.

You can buy coverage for a close relative’s home even if you don’t live with them. However, you won’t be able to receive a payment for any claims filed with your policy. Unlike a life insurance policy, homeowners can’t designate beneficiaries.

Instead, the homeowner will receive payments after a claim is filed. Insurance companies pay directly to the homeowner rather than the policyholder to make the claims process as quick as possible.

Are you wondering about getting insurance for a house you’ve inherited? The previous owner’s insurance policy will no longer be active, so the home will be without coverage until you buy a new plan. You’ll gain ownership of the house once the will goes into effect, but you can always purchase coverage before then.

Even if you plan on selling the home, it’s worthwhile to get insurance coverage. Insurance on a house you’re selling will keep you from paying for costly repairs if something happens. Many companies offer short-term homeowners insurance for situations like this, but a standard policy will also work.

What is renters insurance?

Renters don’t need insurance for their home’s physical structure because that responsibility falls on the landlord. Instead, renters insurance covers personal property inside the home. It doesn’t matter if your home is an apartment, condo, house, or even a single bedroom. Renters insurance will protect your belongings.

Many renters decide to skip on renters insurance because they don’t think they own much of value. However, renters face a danger that homeowners often do not. Renters often live close to their neighbors, and they can be unpredictable.

No matter how safe you are, you can’t stop your neighbors from letting untrustworthy people into your complex or accidentally starting fires.

Without insurance, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable. You might not have a single item worth thousands of dollars, but that doesn’t mean your possessions are unworthy of protection. Most people can’t afford to replace everything in their homes, which is where insurance comes in handy.

Renters insurance doesn’t cover everything, though. You’ll need additional coverage if your possessions are at risk of earthquake or flood damage. Additionally, if you have items of significant value, such as jewelry, instruments, or collectibles, you’ll need special coverage.

Find the Best Insurance for Your Home

Now that you know you can buy insurance for a home you don’t live in, there’s an insurance policy that will work for you. From a traditional homeowners plan to innovative short-term rental policies, you can find coverage that will protect your property.

Your next step should be to compare rates with as many companies as possible: the more quotes you consider, the better price and plan you’ll find.