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The decorations are put away, the eggnog is finished, and people are hoping the groundhog didn’t see his shadow. But whether he did or not [Editor's Note: He did], it’s still winter, and that leads to questions about claims, particularly ones involving frozen pipes.

We see frozen-pipe questions particularly in situations where the insured has gone someplace warmer for a while, left the house unattended, and returned to a flooded residence. Exactly how the house was left is critical to whether or not coverage exists. The HO 00 03 10 00 policy language excludes freezing unless one of two conditions exists: The insured had to either maintain heat in the building, or shut off the water supply and drain all systems and appliances of water. The former is more likely when the insured has gone to the beach for a week, and the latter is more common for snowbirds that winter in Florida or some other warm state.

A Question of Maintenance

But what is maintaining heat in a building? A subscriber had a situation in which an insured was moving out of the home and was using space heaters instead of the furnace to heat the dwelling, since he was not there much of the time. While it was an attempt to maintain heat in the building, it was a rather lackluster attempt. The policy requires the insured to use reasonable care in maintaining the heat, and we do not see space heaters as reasonable care. In our opinion, this claim should be denied.

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