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Vacancy exclusions, arson and denied claims

A person who purchases a homeowners insurance policy should not assume that because a type of disaster is mentioned in the coverage, that all instances of that disaster would be treated in the same way. Fire is one of these that often has notable exceptions. According to HomeInsurance.org, neither a fire in a vacant house or arson is usually covered by a typical policy.

When a house is only used during certain months of the year, the owner may want to look closely at the policy to see if its language denies coverage when there is a fire and no one is currently living in the home. These clauses often go into effect after the house has been empty 30 days, but additional coverage may be available to specifically for an empty home. Insurance companies are always on the alert for fraud, and arson, in particular, so they have their own investigators who examine homes that have sustained fire damage. If they suspect that the fire was set on purpose, they will probably deny the claim.

PropertyCasualty360.com reports on a denied claim in Florida involving both arson and an empty house, although it was not the owner who set the fire. The policy in question had a vacancy exclusion that included malicious mischief and vandalism. In that case, the court ruled that arson qualified as willful destruction of property, a dictionary definition that applied to both vandalism and malicious mischief, so the damage was not covered. However, in similar cases that went to court, rulings differed significantly, even though the same terms were analyzed carefully to reach the decisions.

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