SWG Property: Vacant Property

Jul 2020

SWG Property: Vacant Property

COVID-19 has caused major shifts in Canada’s commercial property market, with significant increases in property vacancies. According to CBRE Group’s quarterly statistics report, Vancouver’s downtown office vacancy rate rose to 3.3% in the second quarter of this year. Meanwhile, Toronto saw an 86% jump in available office space since the first quarter of 2020. (1)

As Canada enters the summer in a state of lockdown, property owners might opt to spend extended time at the cottage or summer home. They might not be aware that extended time away from their home or cottage could leave their property uninsured.

For example, in Ontario and throughout Canada, if a home is left unattended for more than 30 days, it is considered vacant. When this happens, the existing property insurance might be voided. At the same time, properties left unoccupied are at greater risk to theft, vandalism, and damage.

Now is a good time for brokers to talk to their clients about their home or property insurance policies. And for brokers keen on entering this market, here’s what you need to know to help clients safeguard their hard-earned property assets.

What Is A Vacant Property?

A property is considered vacant by insurance standards when there is no longer someone consistently on the property for 30 consecutive days. This could happen when:

  • A rental unit has a gap between tenants
  • Homeowners move out of their home before the property has been sold
  • A leased office/commercial space is undergoing renovation or refurbishment
  • The occupier is absent because it’s a second home, they’ve gone travelling, or they’ve become hospitalized or taken into care
  • The property is awaiting probate

A property is also considered vacant when there is no personal property inside the home such that someone could live there. For instance, a property is considered vacant when it lacks furniture where someone could sleep and eat.

What Are the Risks Associated with Vacant Properties?

During the winter months, properties are at greater risk of water damage. Cold temperatures could cause the pipes to freeze and burst quickly, allowing water to run for days, weeks, or even months without anyone knowing. The combined wasted water and property damage could run up bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

To reduce the risk of water damage, owners should prepare their properties in the warmer months by:

  • Inspecting the property routinely to ensure heating systems are functioning.
  • Shutting off the water supply, flush all toilets and drain the tanks and hot and cold pipes.
  • Putting non-toxic antifreeze in sinks, tubs, toilet tanks and bowls, tubs, washing machines, and dishwasher drains. This will ensure water doesn’t freeze and crack pipes or porcelain fixtures in case the heating system fails.
  • Talking to a specialist about installing a temperature monitor in the property. This monitor sends an alert when the heating system stops working.
  • Installing water sensors to reduce damage to the property should there be flooding or sewer backup. When water levels rise above a designated level, the sensors are triggered and shut off the water supply, preventing a continuous flow into the property.

Break-ins, theft and vandalism are common risks for properties left unattended for prolonged periods. Owners can take steps to reduce the risk of burglary or vandalism by taking the following steps:

  • Ensuring the grass is cut, snow is ploughed in the driveway, and automated lights are installed to make the property look occupied.
  • Changing the locks between tenants to prevent previous tenants from re- entering the property.
  • Talking to the insurer when the property will be empty and for how long, to ensure the existing policy will still be valid and, if so, to double-check for any exclusions.

What Does SWG Property: Vacant Property Liability Cover?

SWG PROPERTY – Commercial Property Liability insurance is designed to cover hard- to-place property accounts. We can accommodate most realty-type risks, from stand- alone rentals and vacant dwellings, to large commercial risks, with an in-house capacity of up to $6,000,000.

Coverage Highlights:

  • Broad Form or Named Perils
  • Replacement Cost
  • ACV
  • Dependent on individual risk, construction, occupancy and town grade

Visit our website for more information on how South Western’s tailored insurance policies can meet the needs of your clients.

Content is current as of the date of broadcast and is subject to change without notice.


  1. https://www.cbre.ca/en/about/media-center/cbres-second-quarter-statistics-show-