Penn. Advises Homeowners to Reduce Property Hazards, Avoid Coverage Loss

September 1, 2015

Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller is advising consumers that the Pennsylvania Insurance Department is available to help homeowners adhere to reasonable requests by insurers to make their properties safer and avoid possible cancellation or non-renewal of their homeowners’ coverage.

Miller said in an Aug. 27 consumer advisory that a review of consumer complaints received by the Insurance Department found that some consumers have had their homeowners’ insurance cancelled or non-renewed after not taking action when their insurer identified a hazard on their property.

“I want all homeowners to understand that they need to respond to these requests so they don’t risk losing the coverage they need to protect their homes and that PID can provide assistance in these matters,” the commissioner said.

By ensuring that homeowners understand their rights and responsibilities, Miller said she believes the Insurance Department can help consumers avoid most policy cancellations and non-renewals.

As the Insurance Department’s first priority is consumer protection when considering cancellation and non-renewal appeals, the Department ensures the insurer’s requests are reasonable, and the homeowner was given sufficient time to make repairs. But, Miller said, insurance companies do have a right to manage the risks they insure on a property — within reason.

Miller said insurers may ask homeowners to take reasonable action to lower risks on a property when issuing a policy or if a change to that property substantially increases risk. Homeowners can appeal an insurance cancellation or non-renewal to the Insurance Department.

Miller cited an example of a homeowner installing a deck with portions of the structure significantly above the surrounding ground level. An insurer may require the homeowner to put up a railing around the deck to lower the chances of a fall or injury.

However, in such a case, the insurer must allow a reasonable amount of time for this work to be done and take into consideration circumstances such as the time of the year when the request is made, as this type of work can be more difficult in winter months. Other actions an insurer could require include fixing an uneven sidewalk or removing large tree branches which could strike and damage a home.

“The homeowner bears the responsibility to take reasonable action to lower the risk the insurer has on a property. A homeowner’s failure to take such reasonable action can lead to an insurer cancelling or non-renewing a policy on that property,” Miller said.

Source: Pennsylvania Insurance Department

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