Fire-House In Woods Cemetery 253614_640Big storms across the country brought on by climate change are causing havoc.

You may have received a notice from your insurer dropping your home insurance policy. Or, unexpected surges in the cost of your coverage can put a strain on your budget especially in these days of inflation.

This is stressful as not having the right amount and type of insurance can make your home more difficult to sell.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers the following suggestions for homeowners facing new decisions about insurance, often with limited time to consider complicated options.

Choosing insurance

Your mortgage lender generally requires your property to be insured. If you stop paying for coverage or let the policy expire, the mortgage lender is allowed to buy insurance and charge you for it. It’s called force-placed insurance or lender-placed insurance.

A force-placed insurance policy usually protects only the lender. The cost can be twice as much as you’d usually pay for insurance.

Under federal law, your mortgage servicer has to notify you at least 45 days before it charges you for force-placed insurance.

Staying ahead of high-cost insurance

Your current insurance policy has a renewal date. One to three months before this date, your insurer should notify you if they decide not to renew your coverage. That gives you time to shop for a different policy.

Even if the insurer renews your coverage, the cost can go up – for some homes, the increase could be $100 a month or more. About a month before the renewal date, your insurer will tell you the cost for the next year.

Ask your insurer to reconsider

When you receive a notice saying your coverage won’t be renewed, call your insurance agent or company to ask why. Depending on what’s happening, the insurer may reverse its decision and renew your policy.

Shop around for the right coverage

To avoid force-placed insurance, you need coverage that matches your home and any unique requirements. For example, your mortgage may require you to have a policy that covers certain risks, such as fire.

Usually, state insurance regulators approve which companies can offer policies to homeowners in their states. To shop for insurance policies, contact your state’s insurance department and find out which companies are operating in your area. Look up your state’s information through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Choose insurance through your state’s FAIR plan

Most U.S. states and the District of Columbia provide insurance programs called Fair Access to Insurance Requirements or FAIR plans, or a similar program. FAIR plans offer coverage even in areas where insurance companies have decided not to sell policies. Through FAIR plans, consumers can have a basic level of protection from catastrophes. However, it often costs more than a standard policy.

Notify your mortgage servicer

After you’ve signed up for coverage, tell your mortgage servicer about the insurance change. You can remove force-placed insurance after you’ve purchased your own insurance policy. See the CFPB’s guide on removing force-placed insurance.

Stay prepared for change

Making home improvements, such as installing a fire alarm or security system, could make it more likely for your insurer to renew your policy. This could also lower the cost. Other home improvements that reduce the risk of loss may help, such as strengthening your roof or updating your plumbing, electrical, or heating systems. Ask your insurance agent or company about options.

Extreme weather events and the natural disasters they trigger are expected to intensify and spread to more areas of the country. Check the CFPB’s tips for assessing your climate risk, and you can fill out Your Disaster Checklist to keep track of your important financial information.

If you have problems with your mortgage servicer related to force-placed insurance, you can submit a complaint to the CFPB.

If you think your insurance has been wrongfully canceled and aren’t satisfied with what you learn from your insurance company or agent, you can file a complaint with your state’s department of insurance.

Originally Published on

Rita Robison Consumer & Personal Finance Journalist

For more than two decades, Rita R. Robison has been a consumer and personal finance journalist making her living by finding the best bargains, calling out the crooks, and advocating for regular people just like you and me. In that time, Robison has talked to so many people who feel like their money just isn’t getting them what they want, where they want to be, or the life they thought it would.

The purpose of her blog is to help you get what you want from your money. Robison covers financial goals, budgets, debt reduction, saving, smart choices for buying goods and services, and retirement planning. You’ll also find articles on safety, such as avoiding scams, looking out for rip off companies, and getting informed on the latest recalls.

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