At long last, your loan package has been approved, your closing date is just days away, everything you own has been packed, and all that remains is a quick call to your insurance agent to line up a homeowner's policy. That's when the bad dream can begin.
Your agent may inform you that your new home is uninsurable because of a history of insurance claims filed by the previous owner. Despite home inspections and various required real estate disclosures, this could happen to you.
Securing homeowner's insurance used to be one of the last tasks a buyer undertook before closing. In reality, it should be one of the first.
Before issuing a policy, insurers always check a property's claims history. Water damage claims are red flags, of course, but homeowners can also set off alarms simply by inquiring about their coverage, without ever filing a claim.
Most insurance companies research past claims through a shared database called CLUE, which stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange. When you apply for homeowner's insurance, the insurer will request a CLUE report to ascertain whether you or the seller have filed any claims during the past five years. Even if you currently own a home and have a squeaky-clean claims history, if you buy a house with multiple claims filed against it, you may not be able to obtain insurance coverage.
Regrettably, you cannot order a CLUE report if you are not the homeowner. However, you can ask the seller to order a copy of the report as a contingency to your offer.
If you are ever denied insurance because of past claims, you can request a free copy of your CLUE report. In the event of a dispute with your insurer, you have the right to ask that your account of the events be included in the report. If you are simply curious about your home's history, you can order a copy from ChoicePoint, the company that manages the CLUE database.
It pays to spend the time and effort to educate yourself about homeowner's insurance when seeking affordable coverage. Consider the following ideas:
- Learn the rules regarding homeowner's insurance renewals in your state. Regulators of some states exercise control over when an insurer can refuse to renew your coverage.
- Pay for small losses yourself. Insurers take notice of customers submitting frequent small claims.
- Think twice before calling your agent or insurance company. When you place a call, the insurer opens a claims file on you regardless of whether you actually file a claim.
- Increase your deductible and consolidate insurers. To reduce your homeowner's insurance premium, consider raising your deductible. Also, most insurers offer discounts if you insure both your car and home with them.
- Examine your credit record. In addition to your past claims history, insurers often use your credit score to determine whether to issue you a policy.