Property insurance allows building owners to protect themselves from the financial impact of loss. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a man-made catastrophe, property insurance can help pay for the repair costs of a building.
But some unscrupulous building owners could also abuse their property’s insurance to receive a hefty payout. One way to intentionally damage a building to claim on insurance is through arson.
Arson with the intent to fraudulently claim on insurance is considered a crime in Maryland. Even if a building owner sets fire to their property when no one else is inside, the penalties they face on conviction can be severe.
Maryland law on burning with intent to defraud
Under state law, it’s illegal for a person to intentionally set fire to any property intending to defraud another, such as an insurer.
Burning with intent to defraud is a misdemeanor charge. On conviction, a person will have to serve a prison sentence of up to five years and pay a maximum fine of $5,000.
In addition to the penalties above, the convicted might face another sentence for a separate and related arson offense. For instance, if the person sent a letter to the building’s tenants warning them of an intentional fire, a court could charge them with a misdemeanor with a maximum 10-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $10,000 on conviction.
A person committing arson to defraud an insurer might also face administrative penalties of up to $25,000 per act of fraud. They could also receive a civil action filed against them by either the insurance company they attempted to defraud or Maryland’s insurance commissioner.
No matter how desperate a building owner may be to receive an insurance payout, arson isn’t the way. The offense can lead to years of jail time, steep fines and a criminal record. But because fraud is often a motive explored in arson cases, even innocent building owners could face charges. Anyone accused of setting fire to their own building might want to consider their legal options or risk multiple convictions.