Vacancy Clause In Homeowners Policy

Colleyville insurance lawyers should be able to discuss “vacancy” clauses in homeowners policies. A 1997, San Antonio Court of Appeals case discusses the vacancy clause found in a USAA homeowners policy. The style of the case is Lynn v. USAA Casualty Insurance Company.
Mr. and Mrs. Lynn’s country home was insured by USAA. The house was completely destroyed by fire and USAA denied coverage based on vacancy and arson. The Lynn’s brought suit against USAA for breach of contract and breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing. The trial court granted USAA’s Motion for Summary Judgement and this court affirmed the ruling.
Although there were some contents in the house six months before the fire, the testimony established that the house was vacant when it burned. The Court of Appeals stated that the house was “without contents of substantial utility” due to the lack of heating equipment, air conditioning, appliances, sleeping accommodations or efforts to preserve the contents for several months. Therefore, the “vacancy” clause precluded recovery. Furthermore, although the illegal acts (such as arson) of a co-insured do not bar recovery under an insurance policy, the “vacancy” clause, on the other hand, does not have a limitation for who “caused” or was aware of the “vacancy.” The clause excludes coverage regardless of the innocent spouse’s knowledge of the “vacancy.” Finally, a bad faith claim is established by showing that the insurer had no reasonable basis for denying the claim or that the insurer failed to investigate. In this case, USAA was justified in denying the claim under the “vacancy” clause. Therefore, there was no bad faith.

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