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Contributor

I have been a happy USAA member for probably 20 years, maybe 25, maybe 30.  I raised my kids in the USAA "family".    

 

Now that I am semi-retired I've been studying German for a couple of years, and I would like to have an immersion experience by taking a class and doing a home exchange, where you trade with another individual or family, ie. they come and stay in your home and you go to theirs.  So last year, as I started to plan my exchange, I called USAA to make sure that an exchange would be covered under my homeowners' policy.

 

To my distress, I was told that USAA has a rule that treats home exchange exactly as if you were letting out your home via Airbnb, and limits members to two weeks per year.    I tried to explain that the two are very different, as there is no money changing hands in an exchange, and a personal relationship develops between the two exchangers.  But the rep was adamant.  I didn't want to give up my USAA coverage, and I couldn't afford to pay for accommodations abroad, so I deferred the Germany plan.

 

Realizing that I'm not getting any younger, I thought about home exchange again this year.  I found the perfect exchanger -- a middle-aged German widow who, like me lives alone.  I emailed and Skyped with her, and arranged a 30-day exchange, with us to overlap at my house for the initial two nights so that I could show her how everything works and have her meet my neighbors.  

 

I thought that USAA would be supportive of this and permit the extra two weeks because it seems actually safer to have a home occupied than empty for the 30 days I'd be away.  But no -- I was told that USAA would not make any representation that if anything happened my home would be covered.

 

The rep said, "Theft by the person living in your home definitely wouldn't be covered," and I said to her "That's fine -- all I care about is something catastrophic like earthquake or fire." But she still would not give me any security on that front.

 

And then I thought I saw an opening where the rep told me that USAA has a sister company that covers short-term rentals -- even though this isn't a rental.  If that were an option, I'd take it even if it cost more.  But then it turned out that the minimum "short-term" period covered is six months.  So it seems as if I'm falling into some crack where my exchange is too long for you to be willing to cover it but too short for your alternative policy.  


Thus, very regretfully, I've been looking into homeowners' policies from other companies.  When I asked USAA if I could continue to maintain my USAA auto and umbrella coverage, I was told yes on the auto policy but that you don't ordinarily issue umbrella policies unless both homeowners and auto are with USAA, although you will consider it in a case where USAA is unable to write one of those two policies.  So, I was told, the umbrella policy could stay in force for the next six months but would then be "re-evaluated", with no assurances given.

 

It is very hard to know how to proceed when faced with this kind of uncertainty.   I love USAA, and I would hate to leave you.  I just want my home coverage to continue while someone else stays in my home without me for my 30-day vacation.  How is this different from having a friend stay in my home while I'm gone for a month?  

 

I hope the underwriters can consider this and respond to me.  Thank you.

3 REPLIES

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Elizabeth12,

 

Good Monday to you. I have forwarded a copy of your post to our Underwriting team for further evaluation. You can expect a follow-up call within 1 business day.  Thank you.

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Good luck, ended up going to another company. Got what I needed without needless hassle and the other company was $700.00 cheaper.
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 I would do this by mail.  Anything the insurance company writes to you is binding upon them.  Ask the specific question if your home is occupied by a home exchange temporary occupant for 30 days is the dwelling covered against the perils named in the policy?   If they say no.... 

 

Even rental homes of 4 units or less can be covered by a HO-3 (probably what you have) policy if owned by a person (not a company) and you live in one of the units.   The alternative is a dwelling policy (in this case a DP-3). 


However I advise against going solely with your HO-3 policy as the argument might be made that it is a business as you're receiving value for the home exchange and homeowners policies don't cover businesses.    They specifically don't cover business liability which is truly the greatest concern even before the building itself. 


There are companies that sell short term rental insurance (for the owner's stuff, not the renters) you can check locally with an independent agent or google it and you'll find a few.  It is a niche market, but insurance does exist. 

 

You'll probably find it is about 20% more than your homeowners, but since you'll only need it for one month it should not be unreasonable.   Then again, that is for my locale, it may differ for you.


Ask the independent agent for vacation rental insurance, some companies will not write it for less than 90 days, so be forewarned.  Also most of the companies that will write it will write it as excess and surplus which means the state insurance regulators are not regulating that particular line of business for that company.  That is not unusual, in fact the worlds largest insurer writes this coverage on an excess and surplus basis in my state, and probably yours too.