All homeowners have certain expectations about what their insurance policies will cover. But the laws pertaining to coverage vary by state. State-specific laws are important to understand when signing up for a homeowners insurance policy and this is particularly true in Pennsylvania. Homeowners insurance is not mandatory under Pennsylvania state law, but most mortgage lenders will likely require it.
Do you own a “dangerous” dog?
In the state of Pennsylvania, owners of “dangerous” dogs must maintain liability insurance or a surety bond in the amount of $50,000. But a policy cannot exclude coverage for any particular dog breed, according to a provision that went into effect in 1990 and prohibits discrimination.
The law defines a “dangerous” dog as an animal that meets one of the following descriptions:
- Attacked a human without being provoked.
- Used in the commission of a crime.
- Severely injured a human without being provoked on public or private property.
- Killed or severely injured a domestic animal without being provoked.
Generally speaking, a “dangerous” dog is also an animal with either a propensity to attack people or other animals without being provoked or a history of doing so.
Is your insurance carrier being fair?
Many state and federal laws are in place to protect insurance companies from fraudulent claims and policyholders who may have misrepresented themselves during the application process. Likewise, many laws are also in place to protect legally insured individuals from being treated unjustly by their insurance carriers.
- Too many claims: Laws in Pennsylvania do not allow an insurance company to terminate a homeowners insurance policy for claims or loss history. However, if a homeowner repeatedly files claims for the same type of incident, the insurance company may request improvements to correct the problem causing the loss. If you don’t take the suggestions into consideration, your insurance policy could be canceled.
Pro tip: Sometimes it’s best to make certain repairs on your own to avoid filing too many claims. If you’re not careful, filing multiple claims could cause your insurance carrier to increase your monthly premiums.
- Late payments: Pennsylvania insurance laws do not require insurance companies to extend a grace period for late payments of a premium. If you can’t pay your premium by the due date, the company can legally cancel your insurance policy.
Pro tip: Sign up for automatic, recurring payments of your monthly premiums. Make sure your payments are made well ahead of the due date each month. By making automatic payments, you’ll avoid missing the payment deadline. Just make sure your banking information is kept up to date.
- Unfair cancellation: An insurance company can only legally cancel your policy under certain circumstances. In Pennsylvania, an insurer cannot cancel a policy more than 60 days after it goes into effect unless a payment of the premium was not paid on time. But a policy can be canceled if you lied about your identity on the application or the insurance company discovers that the house being insured is vacant for 30 or more days.
Pro tip: If your insurance carrier cancels your policy and you’re unsatisfied with their explanation for doing so, consider submitting a formal statement to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department explaining why you disagree with the policy cancellation. The statement must be filed with the insurance department within 10 days of receiving a non-renewal notice.
What if you can’t find a company to insure your home?
State law in Pennsylvania guarantees the availability of basic fire insurance for your home under the FAIR Plan. The FAIR Plan is a state-funded program occasionally subsidized by private insurance companies. This plan can often provide insurance policies to high-risk individuals or people looking for homes in high-risk areas.
Alternatively, surplus lines insurance companies can provide policies to Pennsylvania residents. However, surplus lines are not licensed by the insurance department and there’s no guaranty fund protection if the insurance company goes bankrupt. If a surplus lines company fails to pay a claim, the guaranty fund won’t step in to cover losses. That’s why insurance departments often monitor surplus lines companies. They want to make sure companies can cover claims.
Where do you live?
Wherever you live, it’s important to know your state laws. Just like Pennsylvania, each state has its own unique set of rules and regulations. To learn more about insurance laws in your state, visit the State Consumer Protection Offices page.
Still have questions about insurance laws in Pennsylvania or the state where you live? Contact a Hippo specialist. We’re here to help!