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Personal experience: how insurers in New York tried to make money on me, but could not

Karina Duval

Lawyer, notary, expert in international law.


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Everyone knows that any homeowner is required to insure their property if it is under a mortgage. This is necessary so that in the event of a flood, fire or flood, the bank does not lose the pledged property. Thus, the bank reduces its risks, and you, the homeowner, are obliged to pay for it.

Today I will tell you about a clever trick that I personally encountered when interacting with an insurance company. I won’t give the names of the companies so as not to cast a shadow on anyone, but I will give the problem and its solution.

I have a house. In an old, respectable “old money” town on Long Island. Our town was founded in 1899, that is, 125 years ago, and many of the houses here are about a hundred years old. Our house, for example, was built in 1926. This has never bothered me; I don’t like new buildings in any form. In St. Petersburg, for example, I lived in the pre-revolutionary residential complex of the Basseynoye Association of Apartment Owners, built in 1912-1914 (remember “The Absent-Minded Man from Basseynaya Street”? - that’s where he came from).

But about Peter later. Our house in Long Island was built in 1926, and in just over two years it will celebrate its centenary. Quiet respectable streets, good schools for children, ivy over the main entrance... Beauty!

But insurance companies do not agree with my view of antiquity. For them, the “old house” is a potential danger. Well, you never know. In July of this year, for no apparent reason, I received a letter from the insurance company that they were raising the price significantly.

My first reaction was to find another insurance company that would offer a better price, and I rushed to look for an alternative. And I found it. The price is tempting, half the price of my original insurance. But since the house, from an insurance point of view, is old, they always send their inspector when concluding a new contract.

Photo: Shutterstock

Over the 15 years of owning a home, we have changed insurance companies several times and know what an inspection usually looks like. The inspector calls me, sets up a time, comes, points out the deficiencies, and about a week later I receive a letter from the insurance company with a list of deficiencies that need to be eliminated. For example, cut off branches passing next to the chimney; uproot a tree, which during a hurricane can be uprooted by the wind and destroy the house; refresh the color here or there and so on. Previously, the inspector's comments were always to the point. And although correcting the identified deficiencies usually cost several thousand dollars, I received a reasonable price for insurance for the next few years.

But this time something went wrong. The inspector called me (protocol dictates) and said that he would be there on such and such a day and at such and such a time, but I didn’t need to be present, he would look outside and that’s all. Neither a week nor two weeks later I received his report. I called the company and tried to find out the results, but there was silence.

On the subject: Woman lost $750 when buying a home in New York: scammers hacked into her lawyer's mail and sent her wrong details

In the meantime (all of July, August and half of September passed) our old home insurance expired and the new one took effect. And only in mid-September did I receive a notification from the insurance company that the inspector had identified significant deficiencies (yes, this became known 2.5 months after the inspection), and I was offered to cut down all the ivy within two weeks (I wonder how Ivy League universities still didn’t collapse from such a dangerous plant?) and completely change the roof, which we already completely changed 10 years ago. And if not, then as of October 1st they will close my insurance.

The first reaction is shock. The demands are clearly unreasonable. And why is it so late? Did you specifically wait for your previous insurance to expire? And I rushed to call my previous policyholders in an attempt to negotiate a way to return to them. In response, a polite electronic voice informed me that my insurance was automatically renewed for a new term and the last payment was withdrawn from my account on September 1st. Ha! I didn't even notice.

I then requested a full refund from my failed policyholder. The answer was categorical: “No, no and no, you used our insurance for 2 months.” Yes? Indeed? I paid for two insurances for two months, all this time my house was insured by the previous policyholder, and I no longer need your services.

“Of course,” the operators answered me sweetly. – We will return your money for 10 months, and we will withhold 2 months, because you did not inform in time about your desire to terminate the contract. Under New York State law, you only had one month, not 2,5, to change your mind.”

I thanked him for this excellent clarification and wrote a complaint. In my complaint, I stated that the inspection results were deliberately withheld from me from July until September 2023, so that I would miss the legal one-month deadline, so that my previous insurance would expire, and so that they could put me in an awkward, some might say hopeless, situation. and could continue to twist my arms without hindrance. At three o'clock in the afternoon on September 24, I clicked the “Submit” button, and on the morning of September 25, a refund showed up in my account. In full.

Don't let yourself get twisted. The laws in most jurisdictions and in most cases are on the side of consumers. But policyholders (and not only them) shamelessly take advantage of the fact that people do not know their rights and cannot protect themselves.

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