Homeowners Insurance and Coronavirus

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If your income has been affected by COVID-19, you may be searching for ways to offset the strain of household expenses, including your home insurance payment. Around one-third of Americans couldn’t make their full rent or mortgage payments in July, a historic high for the nation. Thankfully, there is some relief available through housing assistance funds. But for homeowners, these funds generally only cover mortgage payments, not auxiliary expenses like homeowners insurance premiums.

In addition to making home insurance payments less affordable, the pandemic may also affect your policy in other ways. If, like most Americans, your family is now spending a lot more time at home, you might need to update your coverage. In the event that you need to file a claim, you’ll also see some drastic changes in the way that insurers are handling business.

How does COVID-19 impact my home insurance coverage?

Major changes in day-to-day activities during the coronavirus pandemic have probably impacted the amount of home insurance you should be carrying. If you’re currently working from home for the foreseeable future, your homeowners insurance policy might not cover all your day-to-day risk. Most liability related to your business activities isn’t covered, including if a client visits your home and is injured. Cyber theft and data loss that occurs due to exposure via a less secure home wireless network is also excluded from most home insurance policies.

Another important issue is the value of items being kept in your home. If you or your children have brought high-value electronic devices such as laptops home from school or work, you need to make sure that your policy limit covers the value of all these devices – and that there aren’t any limitations that prevent business-owned devices from being covered. In addition to checking with your home insurance provider, you should also ask your employer to see what coverage is included in company policies for remote employees.

If you were previously renting out your home as a long-term residence or vacation property and have been unable to do so as a result of the pandemic, you might be able to modify your homeowners insurance policy. However, if you choose to continue renting the home, keep in mind that there are extra precautions needed for everyone’s safety. Leave plenty of time between guests or tenants to thoroughly clean and disinfect the home and implement contactless check-in processes whenever possible.

Filing a claim during the pandemic

Many insurers have decided that it’s no longer safe to send adjusters to visit homes in person, while COVID-19 poses a threat. Thanks to technology, most insurers have already shifted to electronic claims in recent years, so there isn’t much you’ll need to do differently during this part of the process. If the company decides more physical evidence of the claim is needed, you’ll probably be asked to provide photos and videos whenever possible. Insurers will undoubtedly be more conservative in deciding to send adjusters to physically view your home, although it will depend on the type of claim. For example, an exterior visit is safer to perform in current conditions.

Home insurance inspections are a bit more challenging to do virtually, so if you’re purchasing a home or getting a new policy, a home inspector might need to visit your house. As a safety precaution, you’ll probably be asked to leave or stay isolated in a separate room for the duration of the inspection. Once the inspection is complete, you can expect a virtual review of the results and electronic delivery of the final report.

Since insurance companies could theoretically be making decisions with less information than normal, some may err on the side of caution and pay claims conservatively. If you get an estimate that you believe is inaccurate, don’t be afraid to dispute it and ask for further evaluation. You can also consider contacting an independent appraiser for a second opinion.

As a common theme, you can expect all processes to be slower than usual as long as social distancing measures are in place. With most insurance employees still working from home, claims will take more time to be reviewed and addressed. On top of this, repairs could take longer as these professionals follow their safety guidelines. While it’s frustrating to work with delays, remember to have extra patience as the insurance company works as quickly as possible to come to a fair resolution.

What to do if you can’t pay your monthly home insurance premium

If you’re struggling to pay your home insurance bill, the first step is to contact the company and explain the situation. Remember that you’re not alone in the current financial crisis, and most insurance companies are willing to help. However, falling behind without informing your insurer could lead to your policy being canceled, so the earlier you reach out, the better.

Many home insurers have already announced initiatives to assist homeowners with payments. Progressive made over $1 billion in funds available through the Apron Relief Program, some of which have been put towards billing leniency and premium credits for customers. Liberty Mutual automatically waived late fees on all payments through June 15th, although the company is still offering flexible payment alternatives to those who ask for one. Farmers is offering extensions to allow homeowners to remain covered while pushing back their payment due date and waiving late fees.

State regulators have also acknowledged the financial burdens caused by COVID-19 and stepped in to make sure homeowners are protected. Regulations vary by state but may include mandates that prevent insurers from dropping policyholders due to nonpayment. Check with your local department of insurance to find out what protections are currently in place in your area.