Insurance claim denied because no one was home

Posted at 9:14 AM, Dec 02, 2015

If your home catches fire, is burglarized, or has a water leak, homeowners insurance is there to pay for the damage.

Or is it? Not always.

One Northern Kentucky woman just had a major claim denied, and her story should be  a warning to all homeowners.

Fridge Leaked for 2 Days

Tammy Godby blames a refrigerator for all her trouble.

"It ruined this whole floor up here, the ceiling downstairs, and the carpet downstairs," she said.

The floor, basement ceiling, and paneling were all damaged by a burst hose to her refrigerator's ice maker. It was just a tiny hose, but two days of dripping did serious damage.

Her repair cost: almost 10 grand.

"The dry out process, just to dry it out, was about $7,000. And then we've spent an additional $2,000 to $3,000 putting it back together ourselves."

But when she contacted her insurer -- Northern Kentucky Home Insurance in Alexandria -- she got some terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news.

"They denied the claim because they claimed it was customarily unoccupied," she said.

Vacant Home, Coverage Denied

The problem:  Godby and her family had moved out two weeks earlier, into a new home.

Therefore her old home was "customarily unoccupied".... or "vacant" in layman's terms.

"We had been gone only about 10 days," she said.  Her policy stated insurance can be canceled after 30 days with no one in the house, not 10 days.

We contacted her insurer and confirmed that a vacant home means coverage can be denied.

A spokeswoman said the 30 day rule is a decades-old rule that is no longer in place.  She said Godby's current policy no longer states that, and that claims can be denied after a house is vacant for just a few days.

So we checked with the Cincinnati Insurance Board, and found something many homeowners do'nt know.

    -If your home will be vacant, with no furniture, you typically need to purchase a separate, more expensive policy.

    -If you go away on vacation for more than 30 days, you may also need an add-on policy. In both cases, your risk level rises dramatically with no one home to watch the house.

     -If you rent out your house, you need a different policy.  Homeowner's policies do not cover if a renter is living in your home.

Godby's insurer will re-examine her case, but told us it "has every right to deny her claim."

A vacant house --with unattended water pipes -- is a risk most insurers no longer want to cover.

Bottom line:  If you are moving soon, or plan to be out of your house for a month or longer for any reason, alert your insurance agent in you don't waste your money.


Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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