Being dropped by your homeowners insurance company is an unwelcome surprise, but don’t panic. State laws requires the insurance company to provide you with notice ahead of time so that you can find new insurance. For instance, in Massachusetts, the insurance company must notify you at least 45 days before your policy is due to expire – other states typically have similar requirements. This is especially important if you have a mortgage since your lender will require you to have insurance. You have several options, whether you seek new insurance or reinstatement of coverage with your previous insurer.
If your homeowners insurance company won't renew your policy, you can request a free copy of your C.L.U.E. report, apply for a new policy with another company and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if applicable.
Reason for Cancellation
When your insurance company drops you, it will likely include a reason for failing to renew your policy. Sometimes, the company stops writing all policies in a particular area or state. If this is the case, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting insurance from another company that provides coverage in your area. Companies may refuse to renew a policy because of your claims history – for example, if you made too many claims in a short period of time. They may say the refusal to renew is due to your “status change.” This could mean anything from a change in your credit report to something they don’t like about your living situation. In states like New York, the insurer is required to include the reason with the cancellation notice, but check the laws specific to your state. If no explanation is included, contact your insurer and ask for the reason.
Get a C.L.U.E.
If your insurance company declines to renew you for any reason other than the company pulling out of your state or area entirely, you are entitled to a free copy of your C.L.U.E. report. C.L.U.E., which stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, is a database shared by insurers. It includes your claims history, including any inquiries you made about coverage, even if you never filed a claim. You should examine your C.L.U.E. report to verify that the information included in the report is accurate. If you find inaccurate information, you can file a dispute and ask to have the incorrect information removed from your record. You can get a copy of your C.L.U.E. report from the LexisNexis website.
Apply to Other Companies
Even while you’re dealing with the first insurance company, apply to other companies. If they refuse to insure you as well, compare their reasons for denying you insurance to your first carrier’s. If you have a bad claims history, if you live in an area the company considers to be high risk – such as in a coastal area prone to hurricanes – or if you own certain breeds of dogs, companies may deny you outright. Keep looking for other companies.
Seek State Help
Contact your state’s insurance commission and ask them for recommendations of companies you should contact. If you live in an area where hurricanes are likely, for instance, your state should be able to provide a list of insurers who are still writing policies for homes in your area. Many states have pools of insurance providers – called "FAIR" or Fair Access to Insurance Requirements pools – which are required to provide homeowners insurance to high-risk homeowners, such as someone who’s filed a lot of claims. The cost of this insurance may be high, however. There are 33 states that have FAIR in place, including Alabama, California, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.
File a Complaint
If you feel you’ve been denied insurance unfairly, you can file a complaint against the insurance company with your state’s insurance commissioner. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners maintains a database of state insurance commissioners and their contact information. From the NAIC website, click on "Map" from the drop-down menu and select your state. If you feel you were dropped from your insurance because of inaccurate information in your C.L.U.E. report, you can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, which regulates the use of consumer information in reports like C.L.U.E. Finally, you can file a complaint with the insurance company itself, asking them to review their decision and outlining the reasons you feel you were unfairly dropped.
- Office of the Attorney General: Maryland Laws and Regulations on Non-Renewal/Cancellation of Insurance
- The Pennsylvania Code: 61.5 -- Notice of Cancellation or Refusal to Renew; Requirements
- State of Massachusetts: Homeowner's Insurance FAQ
- LexisNexis: FACT Act Disclosure
- III: What if I can't get coverage?
- NAIC: MAP: STATES & JURISDICTIONS
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.