Whether or not arson in a vacant building is covered depends on the legal interpretation of the policy.

An arson fire engulfs a vacant house. Will the homeowners policy cover the damage? The typical fire insurance policy excludes coverage for damage caused by vandalism or malicious mischief if the building was vacant for more than 30 days before the loss. Determining whether arson qualifies as vandalism or malicious mischief can be a difficult task.

Last year, three appellate courts addressed that issue and came to very different conclusions. A court in Florida found that the vacancy exclusion clearly excludes damage caused by arson; a California court said the vacancy exclusion might apply, depending on the intent of the person who set the fire; and a court in Tennessee found that the vacancy exclusion obviously does not apply to arson fires.

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