By Maria Sassian, Triple-I consultant
In high-risk areas like the West Coast with its wildfires and Florida with its hurricanes and floods, insurance non-renewals are on the rise as insurers attempt to limit their exposure to future losses. Homeowners insurance protects your most valuable possession, so the prospect of getting a notice that your policy will not be renewed can be nerve-racking.
But don’t panic if that happens – you have options.
Know the difference between cancellation and non-renewal
There is a big difference between an insurance company canceling a policy and choosing not to renew it. Insurance companies can’t cancel a policy that has been in force for more than 60 days except when:
- You fail to pay the premium
- You have committed fraud or made serious misrepresentations on your application.
Nonrenewal is a different matter. Either you or your insurance company can decide not to renew the policy when it expires. Depending on the state you live in, your insurance company must give you a certain number of days’ notice and explain the reason for not renewing before it drops your policy.
Question the non-renewal
If you think the reason the insurance company provided for non-renewing is unfair or want a further explanation, call the company. You may get an opportunity to keep your coverage by verifying that you’ve taken risk mitigation measures such as replacing the roof or removing flammable materials near your house.
If your policy isn’t renewed because of a failed inspection, making the proper updates could help you maintain coverage.
Shop around for another policy
If your insurer insists on non-renewing, shop around for a new policy. Here are some tips from Triple-I’s How to Save Money on Your Homeowners Insurance guide:
- Ask friends and relatives for recommendations for insurers and then do your due diligence.
- Contact the state insurance department to find out whether they make available consumer complaint ratios by company. If they do, check into the insurers you’re considering doing business with.
- Check the financial health of prospective insurance companies by using ratings from independent rating agencies and consulting consumer magazines for reviews.
- For price quotes, call companies directly or access information online. Your state insurance department may also provide comparisons of prices charged by major insurers.
- Get quotes from at least three companies.
- Don’t shop based on price alone. Remember, you’ll be dealing with this company in the event of an accident or other emergency. When you need to file a claim you’ll want an insurer that provides good customer service, so test that while you’re shopping, and choose a company whose representatives take the time to address your questions and concerns.
Explore your state’s shared market option
If you’ve shopped around and can’t find coverage, you may need to turn to the state-run shared market. Many states offer Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) policies for high-risk homes, or beach and windstorm plans for coastal properties. These policies offer limited coverage and are often more expensive than a standard home policy from a private insurer.
For more comprehensive coverage, homeowners in California may purchase a “difference in conditions” policy that complements FAIR Plan coverage.
Look into surplus lines
The surplus lines market, which is comprised of highly specialized insurers, exists to provide coverage that is not available through licensed insurers in the standard market. Each state has surplus lines regulations and each surplus lines company is overseen for solvency by its home state.
Available surplus lines companies vary by state. Speak with an insurance agent or broker about surplus lines if you’ve been rejected by at least three other insurers.
Non-renewals in disaster-prone areas
State regulators are pushing back against the non-renewal trend by placing moratoriums on non-renewals for certain zip codes, as happened in California recently, or for certain companies, as is the case in Louisiana.
Whether the decision not to renew is yours or your insurer’s, don’t put off shopping for a new policy. You don’t want coverage on your home to lapse.