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Insurance company says damaged home was 'vacated,' cancels policy

Most homeowners’ insurance policies have a clause that allows the insurer to cancel coverage if it considers the home to have been vacated by the owner for a certain period of time. This may come up most often when the homeowner is moving to a new home and temporarily owns the old home as well. If the old home gets damaged, the insurance company may try to claim that it is not responsible for paying for repairs.

That is what happened to a woman outside of Minnesota. She left her old home and moved to a new place, presumably planning to sell the latter property. Later, a hose in the old home’s refrigerator’s ice maker burst. Over two days, the resulting leak damaged the kitchen floor, basement ceiling and nearby paneling, WCPO-TV reports.

The woman says the damage cost her $9-10,000 to fix. But her insurance company has denied her claim. It says the house had become “customarily unoccupied,” or vacant, because the woman had moved out, and that her policy was therefore cancelled when the leak occurred.

She says her policy does not give the insurance company the right to cancel until after the property has been unoccupied for 30 days, and that she had only been gone 10 to 14 days. The company argues that the clause is outdated, and claims the homeowner is lying about the contents of her policy.

Besides the need to carefully understand the contents of your insurance policy, this story illustrates how eager insurers can be to deny coverage for expensive disasters. Insurance companies are businesses which have profits as their top priority, not ensuring your home is fixed.

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