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How to horrify your home insurance agent

home insurance agent horrorsIt's always upsetting when your insurance agent acts in ways that annoy you. Let's face it, failing to return phone calls promptly or neglecting to mail that declaration page you requested is frustrating.

But agents say that their clients have some fairly annoying habits as well. In fact, there are a few scenarios that can send an agent's blood pressure through the roof. Some of your actions can compromise your coverage or result in cancellation of your home insurance policy – an aching headache for all involved.

Here's a look at the top things that can freak out your insurance agent.

You buy a dangerous pet

If you buy an exotically dangerous animal, it’s fair to assume that you’ll set off alarm bells with your insurer. But your agent may also start to sweat if you buy a certain dog breed. Akitas, doberman pinschers, rottweilers and pit bulls are among breeds that some insurance companies consider “dangerous.” Certain breeds have a history for attacking people and children. Though not all insurers discriminate against certain breeds, some do – and they have their reasons. 

"They're essentially a walking insurance claim waiting to happen," says Jack Smith, executive vice president of William A. Smith & Son Inc. in Newburgh, N.Y. Slithering, snarling and sneaky pets qualify, too. Because they're deemed dangerous, boa constrictors, scorpions, baby alligators and other exotic animals, in addition to some dog breeds, can send homeowners insurance rates skyrocketing -- or cause policy cancellation altogether.

You ignore your home's maintenance issues

Rotten siding, torn window screens and broken garage doors aren't covered by your homeowner insurance policy. Your agent is sure to cringe if you file a claim for these types of “wear and tear” repairs because he’ll be forced to upset you by denying it. Plus, knowing that you have a tendency to ignore home maintenance issues may worry your agent for other reasons.

"Owners are expected to keep their home in good condition because ignoring home maintenance issues can lead to more than chipped paint," says Michelle Rupp, an agent with NGR Seattle, in Seattle. "Ignoring home maintenance can lead to a gamut of issues like burglary and damage caused by animals and rodents nesting in your walls," says Rupp. If a claims adjuster discovers that the damage to your home is resulted from your neglect, that claim may be denied as well. "That's a whole new problem," Rupp adds.

You drag your feet

Ignoring your insurance agent’s requests will surely drive him crazy. If he sends you snail mail, pings you through e-mail and shoots you a text about your policy, it’s in your best interest to respond in a timely manner. He may need to update your information in order to keep your policy current. If you don’t reply in time, you could end up in dangerous territory. Your policy could be cancelled and that can make your insurance quotes higher when you shop around for a new insurer.

Procrastination can damage your relationship with your agent and your insurer. "A cancellation stemming from a consumer ignoring their agent's request for information makes it hard for the agent to keep your rates low, or even have the policy reinstated," says Rupp. "The carrier thinks you are irresponsible and we don't have leverage to plead your case because you didn't provide us with the information needed to keep the policy active."

You buy a trampoline

Not all insurance companies will insure your home if you buy a trampoline. In fact, buying it may nullify your policy. "Agents need to know you're considering a trampoline before you set it up in your backyard to make sure your policy won't cancel, or if you current carrier won't cover it, we can help you find a insurance carrier who will insure you," says Smith.

Equally bad: You lie about owning a trampoline when asked. "Agents often learn about a trampoline when the carrier does an inspection or spot checks to make sure the home is being maintained," adds Smith.

You don't tell your spouse what you agreed to

Couples won’t always agree on every issue – even when it comes to insurance. You’re likely to give your agent a migraine if you agree to certain elements of a policy without checking with your spouse first.

"Often we'll have a lengthy conversation about coverage needs, deductibles, etc., with one half of a couple and contact underwriting to initiate a policy or act on the conversation. The next day, the other spouse calls and wants to completely change what agreed upon and set in motion," says Rupp.

A conference call can help you avoid this, as long as you and your spouse agree before talking to the agent. "Please don't interrupt each other and argue among yourselves so that we have to referee," says Rupp. That's uncomfortable for everyone!

Talking to your insurance agent before these issues reach their boiling points helps keep your policy intact.

"Just about any annoyance can be averted with clear communication," says Rupp.

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