Storm risk is one reason insurance policies get cancelled – but not the only one. Late payments, pets, old roofs, ill-placed trees and other things can do it too.
MIAMI – Worried that your property insurance might someday be canceled? Well, don’t blame it on last year’s hurricanes.
There are a multitude of reasons why your carrier might reject coverage from generic ones, such as non-payment of premiums, risks of wildfires in your area, lack of home maintenance or filing too many claims.
But, there are also some unique reasons, including certain dogs, snakes, electric vehicle hookups, and even solar panels.
And, while an insurer generally cannot cancel a single policy due to an increase in storm damage, it could stop writing policies in a high-risk area, such as Miami-Dade County, or pull out altogether as many in Florida have seen over the past year.
“We usually see some things that are funny in our world, but cancellations are taken very seriously,” said Alejandro Perez Duque, CEO of PVG Insurance Group on Key Biscayne. “A lot of the time, it’s for not complying with the carrier’s recommendation for doing something to protect their home, like where a tree is positioned in the front yard overhanging the roof, whipping the tiles, breaking the tiles, and leading to water intrusion. Carriers are being proactive and recommending things to minimize the loss.”
Water damage is the No. 1 loss – not just in Florida, but anywhere, Perez Duque said. “So anything to prevent water damage (is critical). Anything connected to water, the refrigerator, toilet should have steel braided hoses. They don’t want to see rubber hoses, or water heaters without an overflow tank,” he said, noting that the average lifespan on water heaters is about 10 years.
To reduce the chance of water leak damage, Perez Duque recommends a technological system like he has in his house, which contains an automatic shutoff system when it detects unusual water patterns. The device, which a plumber connects to the water supply mainline and is linked to a phone app, can indicate, for example, why the shower is running for 30 minutes at 3:30 a.m.
“If you don’t respond from a text message, chances are, the water will be shut off,” Perez Duque said, explaining it could also detect a leak in the toilet. “This type of technology is mainly to help you, so you don’t have a loss in the first place, and you will likely get a discount on your policy.”
But, among the unusual reasons policies can be canceled, look no further than your pets.
Dogs: Your home insurance policy’s liability coverage usually covers injuries and property damage caused by your dog. That is, unless your dog belongs to a so-called restricted dog breed, such as pit bull breeds (which have been banned in Miami-Dade County for more than 30 years), Rottweilers and Dobermans.
According to a report by ValuePenguin, breeds on the restricted list vary by company and state. Among the standard breeds that would likely cause a rate hike or an insurance cancellation are: the Akita, American pit bull terrier and pit bull, Chow Chow, German shepherd, Great Dane, Rottweiler, Siberian Husky, and the Wolf hybrid.
Several insurance companies do not have dog breed restrictions. If there’s a question about your dog’s breed, a simple DNA test can be performed. The percentage of the breed also could play a factor.
Exotic pets: Snakes such as a boa constrictor or venomous snakes (illegal in Florida), or even ferrets, would be on many insurance companies’ exclusion list, because they look at it in terms of risk.
If you have an exotic pet or a dangerous dog, make sure you inform the insurance company. Your policy won’t necessarily be canceled if a person is bitten once, but if you never told the insurer you owned it, you would be responsible for all related medical bills.
A story by Assurances Multi-Risques points out that some insurers think owning a reptile carries too high of a risk and they simply decline coverage.
Solar panels: A recent story by First Coast News in northern Florida reported that some insurance companies are parting ways with Florida residents who want to put solar panels on their home, and some are just dropping existing solar customers.
According to that report, one St. Augustine insurance agent suggested it might be happening because of a clause in some Florida Power and Light contracts that says any damage caused by the panels, “you as a homeowner are responsible to pay for all of that damage.”
One example is if a surge running through the panels causes damage to the grid or other homes.
In addition, the report said that home insurance companies are also denying coverage if the homeowner chooses to sell the extra power their panels generate back to the electric company. The system is called net metering, and it’s a common practice for a homeowner with solar panels.
Electric vehicles: A story in The Balance reported that installing a car charging station in your driveway or garage may affect your home insurance policy.
Some state laws require home and condo owners to have liability coverage for the charging equipment, and some underwriters may want to see photos or documents that show the unit was installed correctly, the report said.
Talk to your home insurance agent about any requirements before adding a charging station to your home, and consider carrying additional comprehensive auto insurance coverage.
Hard-wired charging stations are usually considered part of your dwelling and, thus, the station likely would be covered depending upon the type and cause of loss. If an electrical issue with the home’s wiring causes the charger to catch fire, that would likely be covered by homeowners insurance.
When in doubt, speak to your local agent to understand coverage and limitations.