In today’s down economy, more and more homes, condominiums, and buildings are becoming vacant each day. Recently, many national news sources picked up a story out of Ft. Meyers, where one family was the sole resident of a 32-story condominium building. While the family undoubtedly enjoyed exclusive use of the pools and other amenities, this freedom was not without problems. The family reported that they often found themselves dealing with trespassers and vandals roaming the empty building.

While empty buildings, condos, apartments, and houses cause a myriad of issues, problems relating to insurance claims for damage are becoming more frequent. While many people believe that an insurance policy will still provide coverage for an empty property, the reality is that policies often do not.

Many insurance policies do not provide coverage for property that has been vacant for more than 60 consecutive days. While many provisions are usually kept in place even after the property becomes vacant, damages resulting from vandalism, sprinkler leakage, broken glass, water, theft, or attempted theft are often excluded. Further, some policies reduce payments for covered losses to vacant property, leaving the policyholder without enough money to make necessary repairs.

Vacancy exclusions can affect unit owners and associations alike. While it is unusual for entire condominium buildings to be vacant, many times, total vacancy is not required for the exclusion to apply. Many policies consider a building “vacant” if at least 31% of the property is not being used for its intended purpose. Therefore, even though a handful of tenants may actually reside in the building, the property may still be considered “vacant” for insurance purposes.

Given that many condominium associations are beginning to resemble the “ghost towns” of old westerns, many insurers are taking advantage of a growing need for coverage. Insurers, such as American Integrity Insurance Group, based in Florida, are writing specific policies for vacant properties. These policies do not make a distinction between occupied and vacant properties and will generally provide the same coverages in either situation.

With hurricane season in full swing, it is important that associations and unit owners check their policy for vacancy exclusions. If you are unsure whether your property meets the definition of vacancy, contact your agent or insurance company directly. If you have a property that is vacant, make sure to contact your agent and inquire about potential policies that will provide coverage. Doing so now will save you a lot of headaches later.

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Why choose Merlin Law Group?

Founded in 1985, our law firm continues to be dedicated to representing insurance policyholders throughout the United States. Collectively, our lawyers are licensed to practice in 25 states. In fact, many of Merlin Law Group’s attorneys worked for the insurance industry before joining the firm, so they bring a strong understanding of insurance company practices. Anyone can file a claim, but it takes experience, knowledge, and savvy to achieve a truly successful outcome. As The Policyholder’s Advocate®, Merlin Law Group aims to drive positive change within the insurance sector by obtaining justice for our clients and educating policyholders on how to navigate insurer bad faith tactics.

When we handle property insurance claim disputes, we hire the most experienced and qualified expert witnesses to evaluate your insurance claim and testify on your behalf. In most cases, we can advance the fees for this. Typically, we hire experts such as engineers, contractors, independent roofing consultants and other professionals to perform a thorough assessment on all possible causes of damages. This is a process that provides us with a very detailed and all-inclusive estimate for determining and justifying a proper settlement. Our use of these professional expert witnesses sets us apart from other insurance law firms.

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