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Author: stjoe56 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 17951  
Subject: definition of a vacant house Date: 7/28/2008 1:59 PM
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I am trying to get a handle on what exactly is a vacant house for insurance purposes.

My insurance policy states that if a house is vacant for 30 days, coverage ceases.

If I reside in a house and go on vacation for two months leaving no one at home, but all my possession still in the house, is the house considered vacant?

Thanks for any help.


S
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Author: ziggy29 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 16514 of 17951
Subject: Re: definition of a vacant house Date: 7/28/2008 2:13 PM
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>> My insurance policy states that if a house is vacant for 30 days, coverage ceases.

If I reside in a house and go on vacation for two months leaving no one at home, but all my possession still in the house, is the house considered vacant?
<<

I think you need to check to see what their definition of "vacant" is. You may be able to have friends or family (or even a housesitting service) spend a decent amount of time in the house in order to prevent it from triggering the vacancy clause in the policy.

#29

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Author: NoIDAtAll Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 16515 of 17951
Subject: Re: definition of a vacant house Date: 7/28/2008 6:58 PM
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If I reside in a house and go on vacation for two months leaving no one at home, but all my possession still in the house, is the house considered vacant?


Interesting question. I think that qualifies as a vacant house with many insurers' Homeowners policies, but you might check your policy closer for a definition - Call your insurance company's claims office if you can't find a definition. Most policies I've read state 30 consecutive days, so if a person stays in the house 1 day out of 30, you've complied with the vacancy clause under such a policy. Also, some (not all) policies void only Vandalism coverage, not the entire policy.

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Author: GADawg Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 16516 of 17951
Subject: Re: definition of a vacant house Date: 7/29/2008 10:47 AM
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As ziggy29 suggested, read your policy. If you can't find specific wording in the policy addressing your question, call your insurer and ask them to direct you to the wording in the policy that addresses your question. You should never rely on the word of an employee to answer such a question. The wording of the policy will trump everything else.

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Author: NoIDAtAll Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 16518 of 17951
Subject: Re: definition of a vacant house Date: 7/29/2008 1:23 PM
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You should never rely on the word of an employee to answer such a question. The wording of the policy will trump everything else.


True, but part of a claims adjuster's job is to sight policy terminology in declinations of coverage. Declining coverage due to a property's being vacant beyond a specified period is not extremely uncommon - An adjuster could probably point the OP to the relevant clause in the policy very expeditiously.

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Author: Foolishchic365 One star, 50 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 16521 of 17951
Subject: Re: definition of a vacant house Date: 7/29/2008 10:06 PM
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Some policies will define "vacant" in that the property no longer has belongs allowing the property to be inhabited. Since your personal property will remain in the home you may not meet the definition of vacant. Read your policy's definition of the word (hint: if the word appears in quotes in the policy a definition will be provided in the definition section of the policy). Consider consulting with your agent as to whether you can/need to endorse the policy to cover an extended period of vacancy due to vacation/study abroad/temporary work assignment/etc. This would probably have minimal, if any, additional premium. If a housesitter is employed, vacancy shouldn't be an issue.

Remember that claims staff usually answer questions for an event after it occurs with a fixed set of facts to which existing coverage is applied. The question you are asking is one for which a coverage opinion is needed and this is best provided by a licensed agent and/or underwriter. Some states require only licensed persons to answer such a question.

FC365

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Author: NoIDAtAll Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 16522 of 17951
Subject: Re: definition of a vacant house Date: 7/29/2008 11:07 PM
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The question you are asking is one for which a coverage opinion is needed and this is best provided by a licensed agent and/or underwriter. Some states require only licensed persons to answer such a question.

I agree with GADawg - The policy trumps opinion. That some states (which ones?) require that only licensed persons answer such a question is plausible, though I've not seen that here - Here, underwriters aren't, necessarily, licensed, except, perhaps, in E&S markets - That leaves agents, who also, generally, are required, by carriers, to carry E&O Insurance. I hold a license, in Illinois, continuously since 1971, and I am insured for errors and omissions - Before I answered such a question, I would first talk with an adjuster, then check his/her response against the policy...

Basically, a "coverage opinion" is subjective. GADawg is correct - Policy terminology can well trump an "opinion".

Bob

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Author: NoIDAtAll Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 16523 of 17951
Subject: Re: definition of a vacant house Date: 7/29/2008 11:33 PM
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Interesting question.

What's, somewhat, interesting, at least to my mind, is that, while a Homeowners policy would, likely/generally, consider your home vacant under your scenario, a commercial property insurance policy on a warehouse probably wouldn't - Different rates of premium apply, of course, and vacancy permitted policies are available on residential properties, at a premium... In commercial insurance, it is, generally, less costly to store something in an, otherwise, vacant building, that to buy a vacancy permitted policy... just sayin.

Bob

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Author: NoIDAtAll Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 16524 of 17951
Subject: Re: definition of a vacant house Date: 7/29/2008 11:47 PM
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What's, somewhat, interesting, at least to my mind, is that, while a Homeowners policy would, likely/generally, consider your home vacant under your scenario, a commercial property insurance policy on a warehouse probably wouldn't

Commercial policies, generally, require that a central station burglar alarm be installed, with a service contract, for Theft coverage to apply - A personal lines insurer that offered such an option, against voiding coverage, *might* be a thought for an insurer - I haven't seen such an option offered.

Bob

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Author: NoIDAtAll Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 16525 of 17951
Subject: Re: definition of a vacant house Date: 7/30/2008 4:21 AM
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Commercial policies, generally, require that a central station burglar alarm be installed, with a service contract, for Theft coverage to apply

An itemized Special Form Equipment or Personal Articles Floater policy can be a policy that does not require a burglar alarm, nor do they tend to have a vacancy clause - Probably about as close as it gets to full coverage on specified, and a limited amount of blanketed, items ~ Floater policies were, originally, developed for maritime risks - They tend to be comparatively broad in scope.

Bob

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Author: edcosoft Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 16531 of 17951
Subject: Re: definition of a vacant house Date: 8/13/2008 11:24 PM
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To be "vacant" the house would have to be essentially empty of furniture. A house being constructed, or remodeled is not considered vacant. YOur policy will have a definition of vacant, and the consequences.

The house can be considered "unoccupied" where you aren't there but your furnishings are. Some people leave their principal residence for 6 months or more to travel, or migrate to warmer weather. They may not occupy a summer or winter 2nd residence for many months and if furnished it is considered unoccupied, not vacant. They leave their house and it is almost fully insured. For instance, if unoccupied without turning off the water, coverage for freezing of plumbing is suspended.

ed

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Author: NoIDAtAll Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 16533 of 17951
Subject: Re: definition of a vacant house Date: 8/14/2008 4:58 AM
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To be "vacant" the house would have to be essentially empty of furniture. A house being constructed, or remodeled is not considered vacant. YOur policy will have a definition of vacant, and the consequences.

The house can be considered "unoccupied" where you aren't there but your furnishings are. Some people leave their principal residence for 6 months or more to travel, or migrate to warmer weather. They may not occupy a summer or winter 2nd residence for many months and if furnished it is considered unoccupied, not vacant. They leave their house and it is almost fully insured. For instance, if unoccupied without turning off the water, coverage for freezing of plumbing is suspended.

ed


Ed is very versed and sharp WRT insurance contracts and terminology, IMHO, and I deeply respect and appreciate that he recommends that you refer to your policy for definitions - Read those definitions closely:

They say vacant - we say unoccupied. We have "stuff" there. Stove, some furniture, some clothing, tools, supplies that we were going to use to fix the house up with.

http://forum.freeadvice.com/showthread.php?t=389384

Personally, I'd very much appreciate Ed's insights and help in contesting a claim denial - Such matters can get pretty heady, and he's as good as I've seen in such matters.

Bob

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Author: edcosoft Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 16534 of 17951
Subject: Re: definition of a vacant house Date: 8/14/2008 1:22 PM
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Thanks for the hype, Bob, but you muddied the water with your link to another board, however:

Every policy and State words things differently. This OP questions what the definition of "vacant" is and describes a condition of "unoccupancy", not vacancy. He also doesn't say what happened. In that regard generally a house with furnishings to live in, but no occupant at the time, is "unoccupied" , not vacant. So, unless you moved enough furniture out so you can't live there, the house isn't vacant.

You might have a condition where the furniture is removed to prevent damage while reconstructing or remodeling. I would suggest that if you are remodeling to sell, and you have moved to another principal residence (note the 30 or 60 day grace limit), the house is vacant. Conversely, if you intend to move back in, it is not vacant. You could support this contention by the contractor occupying the house, however, for "fixing up to sell" 6 months seems overly long. Technically you could get around the 30 or 60 days expiring by leaving a bed, groceries and clothing and sleeping there every 29 days. Failing that, you have a tough situation.

Further: 1. They have "moved out 6 months ago". 2. Left the utilities on (he doesn't say, but if the water damage was due to freezing there's no coverage if unocupied, depending on policy wording). 3. The "stuff" left behind is not in order to again occupy the house, only to fix up to sell, so probably shouldn't override vacancy. 4. "Unoccupied" infers an intent to return, but it appears your insured "vacated" the premises. The post doesn't give enough information to reconsider the claim's merits, like "what caused the water damage?". Referrence to Webster for these definitions is no good, but there is probably considerable discussion in insurance textbooks.

So, again. We need he specific plicy wording, the cause of the water damage, etc.

P.S. I used to teach this stuff in IIAI and CPCU classes.

ed

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