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Are they allowed to not renew my policy even if the damage and claims have been no fault of mine?

Question:
State Farm isn't renewing my policy after 12 years because of my loss history. I have put in six claims, all of which were out of my control due to severe weather-related problems. I have never put in a dishonest claim and always repaired the damage with reputable contractors besides taking extra precautions to prevent the problems. My main problem has always been from water/ice damage in the winter with severe ice on my roof. Can I fight them not renewing me? I like State Farm and I really don't want to get a bad "risk" name with other insurance companies if I have to go with a different company. Are they allowed to not renew my policy even if the damage and claims have been no fault of mine?

Trish, New York

Answer:
Dear Trish,

An insurance company can always choose to not renew a policy. And, of course, you also have that option. In addition, no matter what the reasons, six claims in 12 years is a lot of claims. You are likely to be considered a bad risk when you look for a new home insurer.

You may still be able to talk State Farm out of dropping you. According to State Farm spokesperson Phil Supple, a good first step would be to contact your insurance agent to see if there is anything you can do to change the decision. Raising your deductible or making some sort of needed repairs to your home are two possible options.

"We want to maintain them as a policyholder, too," says Supple. "We work with our policyholders to do anything we can to keep them."

If your agent isn't helpful, you have other options. You can make an internal appeal. Ask to talk to your agent's supervisor, and state your case to him or her. If that doesn't help, ask to talk to their supervisor.

One thing that traditionally helps in the appeal process is documentation. Simply put, you should submit as much proof as you can. Put your requests in writing via certified mail, and submit any written proof you have that the claims were honest as well as proof that you took steps to prevent the problems. In addition you should send a copy of all of your correspondence to the department of insurance, and make a note of that on your correspondence with State Farm.

Looking beyond the immediate issue, there are things you can do to help sidestep the likelihood of being dropped by your insurance carrier in the future. While people are rarely dropped for making a single claim, they can be, and often are, dropped for making multiple claims. So insurance experts suggest that you weigh the costs and benefits before making a claim. For more details, see our story on One home insurance claim? Not a problem!

"If it is a minimal claim, it doesn't make sense to make it," explains Loretta Worters, vice president of communications for the Insurance Information Institute. Worters also suggest that you investigate ways to make your home more attractive to insurance companies. Some options include installing smoke detectors, buying your home and auto insurance from the same company, and raising your deductible. For more helpful hints, take a look at our story on Fifteen ways to save on your homeowners insurance.

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Disclaimer: We are journalists, not financial planners or insurance brokers. Nothing we say should be interpreted as a recommendation to buy or sell any insurance product, or to provide other financial or legal advice.

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