Realtor.com quoted me in Moved Out? Watch Out, Teens May Be Partying in Your Old Home. It opens,
Teenagers are always on the lookout for a house party—and there’s nothing better than a venue where it’s all but guaranteed that nobody’s parents will barge in and disrupt all their risky business: vacant homes!
That’s right, if you’ve moved out and planted a “for sale” sign on your lawn—or are waiting to move into a place under construction—it’s a sitting duck for young revelers to … revel in.
The latest victim of this fast-growing trend: a newly built home in El Dorado Hills, CA, where nearly 200 kids broke in and had a bacchanal before they were busted by the cops. According to the Sacramento Bee, most of the partygoers scattered to safety, but 14 were detained and cited for trespassing.
Sadly, by the time law enforcement arrived, the house had suffered enough damage to qualify as a felony. Cops noted numerous holes in walls, busted electronics, and other property devastation in the house (estimated to be worth around $500,000).
And this is hardly an isolated incident: Last month, a teen in nearby Ceres, CA, pulled up a “for sale” sign from the yard of an unoccupied house, then spread the word on social media to come on down—BYOB and BYOW (bring your own weed)—charging $10 a head for the 100 or so who showed up. The noise prompted neighbors to eventually call the cops, who suspect the “host” has made a habit of organizing fetes in abandoned homes.
All in all, such stories can haunt the dreams of homeowners who’ve moved out or are about to move in: Are hooligans holding beer pong tournaments in your abandoned (or soon to be occupied) living room every Saturday night? And if they do crack your granite countertops, who’s responsible for the damage?
The answer depends on your homeowner insurance, which rarely covers policyowners who aren’t living on the premises.
“Many homeowner policies won’t cover a home if it’s vacant,” warns David Reiss, research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. Funny right? But here’s the punch line: “Homeowners should also be concerned about injuries suffered by the teens. It is all too plausible that you will face a lawsuit if one of them gets hurt while partying at the house. This is true notwithstanding the fact that the teens had trespassed.”
In other words, if some drunk punk stumbles and falls off your balcony and lands on his noggin, it might be all on you.
Yet there are things you can do to head this problem off at the pass.
“Some insurance companies offer endorsements to your existing policy or altogether new insurance policies that cover vacant homes,” points out Reiss. “Some even offer special coverage for vandalism damages. It’s worth looking into them if your home will be vacant, even for a relatively short time.”