When driving past a motel sign with the word “vacancy” illuminated in neon, most people understand that there is indeed room available at the inn. How long the room has been vacant generally is not a concern.

This is not the case in insurance contracts. When the word “vacancy” is spotted on an insurance policy, things get a little more complicated.

“Vacant” or “Unoccupied”?

Courts have long defined “vacant” in insurance policies as meaning empty of inanimate objects — as opposed to “unoccupied,” which they have defined as being void of human habitation. For example, in Myers v. Merrimack Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 788 F.2d 468 (7th Cir. 1986), an apartment building was deemed “vacant” and not merely “unoccupied” in regard to a fire loss. The court found that the loss was excluded where apartments in a building, except for some stoves and refrigerators, were entirely empty for approximately 18 months, lacking both tenants and inanimate objects.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free
PropertyCasualty360 Digital Reader.


  • All PropertyCasualty360.com news coverage, best practices, and in-depth analysis.
  • Educational webcasts, resources from industry leaders, and informative newsletters.
  • Other award-winning websites including BenefitsPRO.com and ThinkAdvisor.com.

Already have an account?


© 2023 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.



Join PropertyCasualty360

Don’t miss crucial news and insights you need to make informed decisions for your P&C insurance business. Join PropertyCasualty360.com now!

  • Unlimited access to PropertyCasualty360.com - your roadmap to thriving in a disrupted environment
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including BenefitsPRO.com, ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com
  • Exclusive discounts on PropertyCasualty360, National Underwriter, Claims and ALM events

Already have an account? Sign In Now
Join PropertyCasualty360

Copyright © 2023 ALM Global, LLC. All Rights Reserved.