Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Consumer alert: If your insurance cancels your policy, you may have a hard time finding new coverage for a while

We recently received a call from a consumer who had paid the most recent homeowner insurance premium online, but the insurance company canceled the policy. When the consumer called the insurer to sort it out, the insurer said they are not issuing any policies because of the wildfires around the state.

The consumer called us, and we are working with the company to make sure the consumer has the coverage they paid for.

It is not uncommon for property insurers – they insure cars, buildings, homes, property and renters’ contents – to suspend issuing new policies during a natural disaster. President Obama issued an emergency declaration for Washington on Aug. 21. As of today, more than 920,000 acres have burned in our state.

This scenario underscores the need to be vigilant about the information your insurance sends you. Insurers are required to tell you in writing if they are canceling your policy for any reason, including nonpayment. Many homeowners don’t think about their insurance payments because they are rolled into your mortgage payment. If you have multiples insurance policies with the same company, it’s common for all of your premiums to be paid at the same time. For example, if you insure two cars and an RV through the same company, you probably pay for all three at once.

If your insurance company contacts you by mail, phone or email, you should carefully read what they send you. If you are unsure about the standing of your policies, contact your insurance company, agent or broker.

If you can't find homeowner insurance, ask your agent to get a quote through the Washington Washington FAIR (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) Plan. It provides basic property insurance up to $1.5 million to people who can't get coverage.

If you feel you have been treated unfairly or have questions about insurance in Washington state, contact our consumer advocates online or by phone at 1-800-562-6900.