New York Times: New York Seeks New Rates for Force-Placed Insurance

Jun 13, 2012

The following article was published in The New York Times on June 12, 2012:


New York State is demanding that insurers that write policies to cover financially troubled homeowners submit new rate proposals after hearings last month showed companies charged too much for the coverage.

“Our hearings suggest a lack of competition, high prices and low loss ratios, all of which hurt homeowners,” said Benjamin M. Lawsky, superintendent of the Department of Financial Services, in a statement. “It is now appropriate for insurers to propose new rates along with justifications for those new rates.”

Assurant, the QBE Insurance Group and American Modern Home Insurance were sent the order and are required to respond by July 6, according to Mr. Lawsky’s statement. They make up more than 90 percent of the so-called force-placed insurance market in New York.

Homeowners are required to pay for the coverage if they allow their existing policies to lapse; this is to protect mortgage lenders against vandalism and storm damage. The insurers often pay out less than 25 cents for every dollar in premiums they collect on the policies, Mr. Lawsky said at the hearing in May, compared with about 63 cents on a typical homeowner’s policy.

Shawn Kahle, a spokeswoman for Assurant, said the company was “prepared to revise our lender-placed offerings to reflect mortgage market conditions and meet the needs of New York homeowners.” QBE and American Modern Home Insurance had no immediate comment.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who announced the Department of Financial Services order, said the cost of such insurance “can push a family over the foreclosure cliff because they have no choice than to pay a lot more for a lot less.”

Force-placed coverage is often more expensive than standard policies because insurers cannot inspect the properties, and the homes they cover are frequently in areas more prone to hurricanes and other natural disasters, John Frobose, president of Assurant’s American Security Insurance, testified at last month’s hearing.

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