Your homeowners insurance is there to protect you, but what if you file too many claims and the company refuses to cover you anymore? Also, how do you know how many claims is “too many”?
“They say we don’t care whether you had a run of bad luck or not, we’re not insuring you anymore,” said Terry Foote.
After filing his fifth claim in 37 years, State Farm let Foote know that they would no longer provide homeowners insurance for him.
Foote is in temporary housing because his house caught fire and is being repaired.
“That’s what I pay insurance for,” Foote said.
He said he used to pay State Farm $891 a year for homeowners insurance. Now, he said the best deal he could find is USAA at $4,300 a year.
“It should not just be a numbers game and that is what it is,” Foote said.
Laura Wegmann with the Indiana Department of Insurance said it isn’t just the number of claims that determines your fate. Insurance companies look at each one individually and ask certain questions.
“Were those avoidable, what was the nature of those claims? Those sorts of things are taken into consideration by the companies,” Wegmann told Fox 59.
Consider raising your deductible, which will lower your premium and reduce potential claims, Wegmann said. Also, if the cost to repair the damage is only slightly higher than your deductible, consider paying for that yourself.
“Filing multiple claims can mark you, potentially, as high risk and that can result in higher premiums or, potentially, cancelled coverage,” Wegmann said.
Foote said he filed his first claim in 1995 for storm damage. Then, over the next 18 years, he filed claims for tornado damage, lightning hitting a tree, his daughter stealing jewelry and a chimney fire.
“There is no fault whatsoever you could put on me, they’re just fluke accidents,” Foote said.
Indiana law states that companies can cancel your coverage for not paying a premium, fraud or a risk jumping unreasonably, Wegmann said.
John Zarich with the Insurance Institute of Indiana said each company is different and you should always get advice from your agent.
“One of the things you really want to protect are those large, sudden unexpected claims that you want it there for. So to the extent you can take care of those maintenance issues and make the smaller claims a non-issue you’ll help yourself out,” Zarich said.
Home maintenance is also a crucial part of the equation. Zarich said this is a perfect time to go through your home and ask yourself what you can do to prevent claims.
“(Ask yourself) how can I get my home in shape? Look at the gutters. Make sure they’re not clogged,” Zarich said. “If you have a sump pump operated by a battery, check that out. Make sure things are working properly because the best thing you can do is avoid claims in the first place.”
The insurance company is required by law to notify you at least 20 days in advance of cancellation. You can ask for a written statement explaining why, Wegmann said.
Foote still thinks the whole process is just wrong.
“What about these other older folks out there? If something happens to them, they don’t know this. They don’t know they’re going to get dropped, and it’s not right,” Foote said.
If you think you’ve been treated unfairly by the insurance company, you can call the Department of Insurance and file a complaint. They’ll set you up with a counselor who will walk through the case and try to help you find a resolution. Call them at (800) 622-4461 or visit their website.
Also, if you aren’t able to get property insurance, you can apply for a fair plan policy through the Indiana Basic Property Insurance Underwriting Association by visiting IndianaFairPlan.com.