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FAIR plans: Home insurance for risky properties
If you’ve applied for home insurance with multiple insurers and have gotten declined at every turn, don't give up -- there's still hope for getting covered.
A variety of programs across the country provide home insurance for owners of high-risk properties who have trouble finding coverage in the standard market. Insurance companies may balk at insuring your home if you live in a high-crime area or frequent severe weather, or if your house has old plumbing, electrical or heating systems.
Home insurance through FAIR plans
FAIR plans (short for Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) are the safety net for homeowners who have been turned down for insurance.
Congress paved the way for the creation of FAIR plans in the late 1960s after three years of rioting devastated neighborhoods in big cities. Although insurance companies paid those claims, future coverage for homeowners in those areas was at risk of drying up. Congress passed a law in 1968 authorizing states to establish the plans to assure that people in urban areas could get coverage. Many FAIR plans now offer coverage in both urban and coastal areas, or throughout their states. The associations that issue FAIR plans are nonprofit groups supported by private insurance companies operating in those states.
In addition to FAIR plans, some states have other ways for frustrated homeowners to buy insurance:
- Beach and windstorm plans -- These plans offer coverage for damage by windstorms in coastal areas where standard home insurance excludes windstorm damage.
- State-run plans -- Citizens Property Insurance Corporation in Florida and Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation are nonprofits that provide property insurance throughout those states to owners who can't find coverage elsewhere.
All of these plans issue insurance as a “last resort,” and when you apply you may have to show proof that you were unable to find standard coverage. To request coverage from the District of Columbia Property Insurance Facility, for instance, you must submit a copy of the cancellation or nonrenewal statement from your current home insurance carrier, along with your application to the plan.
Most new homeowners insurance applicants through Florida's Citizens must first seek coverage through a clearinghouse to see if any private options are available. New applicants can purchase policies from Citizens only if they receive no private comparable offers or if the rates offered by private companies are 15 percent higher than those offered by Citizens.
Exhausting your other home insurance options
Before you throw up your arms and contact a FAIR plan, work with a savvy insurance agent to try to find standard coverage. Check with the company that insures your cars or previously insured your home. Talk to your neighbors about which companies insure their homes, recommends the Insurance Information Institute. If your house is considered risky because if its condition rather than the location, find out what you can do to make it more insurable.
It's worth the effort to secure coverage in the standard market if you can. Insurance plans designed as a last resort generally are basic, no-frills policies, which cost more and offer less coverage than standard home insurance policies.
The Connecticut FAIR Plan, for instance, offers basic liability and property coverage for named perils such as fire, but the policies do not cover theft, freezing, water damage and some other risks.
In Louisiana, the state government mandates that coverage offered through its Citizens Property Insurance Corporation be more expensive than that offered by private insurance companies.
Don't give up on the standard market even after you get coverage from an insurer of last resort.
"We recommend that all FAIR Plan policyholders shop for a different insurer at least annually in order to search for coverage that is more comprehensive than that offered by the FAIR Plan," The California FAIR Plan Association states on its website.
Find a FAIR plan for home insurance
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