Homeowner’s Insurance Company Cancels Policy on Vacant House

A Washington woman recently discovered that some homeowner’s policies are not there when you need them most. The woman and her family had recently moved into a new home but still owned their former home which had not yet sold.  The family had only been absent from the home for about ten days when the refrigerator in the home leaked.  Because no one was routinely visiting the home or living in it, the leak was not discovered and corrected for two days.

The family maintained a homeowner’s insurance policy on the former home and believed that their coverage would provide financial protection in case of damage or destruction to their former residence.  When the family was able to assess the damage caused by the leaking refrigerator, they found that the main level’s flooring along with the ceiling, the paneling, and the carpeting of the basement were all damaged.  Drying the home cost the family $7,000, and another $2,000 to $3,000 was needed to repair all of the damage. When the woman filed a claim with her homeowner’s insurance company, the carrier promptly denied the claim.

Claim Denied Because the Home was Declared Vacant

In speaking with the homeowner’s insurance company, reporters for local news agencies soon discovered the reason the claim had been denied.  Because no one had lived in the home for ten days or more, the insurance company considered the home to be “vacant.”  The family’s homeowner’s insurance policy did not cover any damage to the home if it occurred when the home was vacant.  The insurer asserted this exclusion despite allegedly “old” language in the woman’s policy that indicated the home would not be considered vacant by the insurer unless no one had lived in it for 30 days or more.

In fact, there are several similar circumstances that might not be covered by your homeowner’s policy:

  • If the home is left vacant – you move out and leave no furniture – you may not be covered in the event of a loss. Typically, you must purchase additional coverage if you want your home protected if someone will not be living in the home for an extended period of time. These policies are generally more expensive because the risk of catastrophic damage to the home is greater.
  • If you plan on taking an extended vacation, you are not living in the home during your vacation, but your belongings and furniture are still there.  You might need additional, add-on coverage. The insurer’s justification for requiring additional coverage involves the higher risk of catastrophic damage to your home and its contents when the home is left vacant.
  • If you are renting your home to tenants, you generally must purchase additional coverage because your homeowner’s policy might not cover damage caused by renters (most do not).

It is a good idea for Florida homeowners to take the time to review their policies, the types of damage for which they are covered, and the exclusions from coverage before damage occurs to their home.

If your insurance carrier is refusing to comply with its contractual obligation, you are invited to contact our law firm to speak to an experienced Miami insurance claims attorney.  My law firm specializes in representing policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. Click here to read about some of our case results.  The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM. 

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