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Missouri homeowners getting slammed after two claims

Many Missouri homeowners receive startling news when they file their second claim on their home insurance in 10 years. Some home insurance companies consider two claims in 10 years excessive and will then refuse to renew insurance policies.

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Not only can two claims generate a nonrenewal, but Randy McConnell of the Missouri Department of Insurance says there also is a flaw in the way some home insurers record claims. Many homeowners escrow or roll their insurance payments into their mortgage payments since insurance is required by most banks and mortgage companies. "That means you're not usually dealing with an agent but directly with the insurance company," he says.

Some insurance companies incorrectly record a call for information as an actual claim call, says McConnell. Residents may call to make their first actual claim only to find that the insurance company records indicate they've made a previous claim and won't be renewed.

That could push residents into a high-risk category for insurance, but McConnell says most high-risk plans in the state don't offer basic liability insurance on a house, which is the insurance required by mortgage companies to protect you in case you are sued.

"That leaves people out putting their homeowners insurance together piecemeal, which makes it even harder for them to keep up with," says McConnell.

According to McConnell, the state has no safeguards against this problem.

"Missouri has regulations that prohibit auto insurers from raising rates or nonrenewing policies when a car is damaged by natural causes such as a tree falling on a car in a storm," he says. "We don't have that kind of regulation for homeowners insurance."

Severe storms in 2001 capped off by a damaging ice storm this past January meant homeowners were filing more than one claim on their home insurance. McConnell says it became a rude awakening for many.

Calls to individual Missouri insurance companies for information on claims recording were not returned.

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