Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Are insurers allowed to cancel homeowner policies?

Unfortunately, yes, an insurer can cancel or choose not to renew your homeowner policy at any time. Insurers are required to send you a written notice 45 days in advance, clearly listing the reason(s) for their actions. They are only required to give 10 days’ notice if the reason is nonpayment. Insurers are not prohibited from making a decision to cancel or not renew a homeowner policy due to claims history, the condition of your property, or failure to respond to their requests for underwriting data from you. Last summer, a few homeowners reported their insurers wanted to cancel their policies for homes located in the wildfire region in Eastern Washington. Insurers can also ask you to make changes to your property to remain insured, such as removing vegetation to create a fire break around your house, cleaning or repairing your roof, or making repairs to worn siding, etc.

Your insurance agent may be able to work with the insurer to retain coverage, possibly with a higher deductible or some other provision, such as a home inspection report that would provide the insurer with more information about the overall condition and care of the home and property. There’s no guarantee the insurer will continue the coverage, but it’s worth asking the question.

If you are unable to find coverage, you can get a quote from Washington Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan. It provides basic property insurance up to $1.5 million to people who can't get coverage. All Washington property insurers must participate and consumers must get a quote from a licensed insurance agent. Find a licensed insurance agent or broker.

Read more about what to do if your policy is canceled. Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.