Can an insurance company refuse to pay on hail damage?

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Can an insurance company refuse to pay on hail damage?

The house was owned and rented for 13 years by the same renters with no claims filed. After the renters moved out and the owners painted almost the whole house, put new flooring and refinished the hardwood flooring, redid ceilings, replaced some light fixtures, remodeled the bathroom, painted parts of the outside, fixed parts of the siding, cleaned and sealed the deck, and did some

landscaping. The owners also put the house up for sale. There is still some

furniture, window dressings, rugs, lamps, and knick knacks. The house was also

listed as a rental house with the insurance company. The process took over 60

days to complete. After the 60 days passed, an act of nature of a hail storm

damaged the roof, outside painting, and siding. The insurance company is

refusing to pay saying the house is vacant or unoccupied for more than 60 days.

We the owners are in the house taking care of the lawn checking on the

interior at least twice a week. They are refusing to pay anything stating no

one lives there. However, we have been in the house taking care of it, just not

sleeping there. Can they refuse?

Asked on November 20, 2016 under Insurance Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Vacancy is generally interpreted in the law as meaning no one is living there--i.e. simply checking on the home is not enough. Furniture has no bearing on vacancy: vacancy refers to residence, not whether anything is kept, stored, staged, etc. there. Similarly, unoccupied would be a house without anyone in residence: simply checking in but not living there does not make the house occupied. Based on what you write, if under the policy, they don't have to pay if the house is vacant or unoccupied for more than 60 days, they may be able to avoid paying: under reasonable and common interpretations of those terms, the house is unoccupied and vacant (Note, however, that if the vacancy/occupancy restriction is not in the policy documents, then the insurer can't add it: they can enforce any restrictions in the policy, but only those restrictions or exclusions.)


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