By Sonya Sellmeyer, Consumer Advocacy Officer for the Iowa Insurance Division
Several insurance carriers have stopped writing new homeowners policies in California due to man-made or natural disasters, also known as catastrophic events. In 2022, according to the Insurance Information Institute, insurance carriers estimated natural disaster property losses to be $99 billion. In Iowa, claims for the 2020 derecho topped over $1.6 billion.
These catastrophic weather events, inflation, and the rising cost of reinsurance (insurance for insurance companies) are leading home insurance carriers to raise their premiums, reduce concentration of risk, or not write policies for riskier properties. In 2020, the average Iowa homeowners premium was $998 but many homeowners have seen an increase in their premiums recently.
Insurance companies decide which risks to insure and examine many factors when determining premiums. Factors may include where you live, the weather affecting your area, the age and condition of your home, the age of the roof, building codes, crime rates, and rebuilding costs.
Your credit and insurance score may also factor into your premium. A credit score predicts the likelihood of paying back a loan, and an insurance score determines the probability of an insurance loss. An insurance score is calculated using the information on your credit report and not your annual income, ethnic group, age, gender, and other similar factors. A high insurance score translates to less probability of filing an insurance claim, thus leading to lower premiums. Ask your insurance carrier about access to your insurance score.
There are ways to reduce your premium. Having security and safety features reduce risk and may lower your premium. Raising your deductible should also lower the premium. Inquire with your insurance agent about discounts available for your occupation, loyalty, and bundling, but don’t risk being underinsured to save on your premium.
Consumers who have had their homeowners insurance canceled or non-renewed, and are unable to find coverage in the voluntary market should consult the Iowa FAIR Plan at 515-255-9531 or email@example.com. The Iowa FAIR (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) Plan provides basic dwelling, home, commercial, and farm property insurance to consumers unable to find insurance in the voluntary market. Policies cover the perils of fire, lightning, wind, and hail, but with less coverage than most voluntary market policies. Applications for coverage must be submitted by a licensed Iowa insurance agent.
Force-placed insurance is an insurance policy placed by a bank or mortgage company on a home when the homeowners’ property insurance may have lapsed or been deemed insufficient. Premiums are typically very expensive and may not provide the same protection as a policy under the Iowa FAIR Plan.
If you are unable to find commercial or business coverage in the voluntary market, surplus lines insurance (sometimes called excess lines insurance) may be the answer. Sometimes the unconventional nature of what needs to be protected makes it impossible to get insurance through regular lines of insurance because the insurance companies are unable or unwilling to accept the risk. For those instances, a licensed insurance agent authorized to sell surplus lines insurance may be able to assist in obtaining coverage. While the agent is licensed by the Iowa Insurance Division, the rates and policy language are not reviewed by the Iowa Insurance Division and Iowa’s insurance laws may not apply. Authorized insurance companies selling surplus lines insurance have the flexibility to create policies that insure the otherwise uninsurable.
The Iowa Insurance Division licenses many homeowners insurance carriers. To find the appropriate policy for your situation, speak to a licensed insurance agent regarding insurance options. Exploring your options may provide the most affordable coverage.