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Insurance Information for Consumers and Homeowners

March 22, 2012

Author: Barbara van Kerkhove

Below are links to information on insurance for consumers and homeowners. While it is certainly not an exhaustive list, it is a good starting point for those seeking more information about insurance and insurance companies. There also are links for those seeking to file a complaint against an insurance company and seeking coverage through New York’s FAIR Plan.

New York State Department of Financial Services

http://www.dfs.ny.gov/

DFS Consumer Information page

http://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/dfs_consumers.htm

Information on Insurance

http://www.dfs.ny.gov/insurance/consindx.htm

Information on Homeowners Insurance

http://www.dfs.ny.gov/insurance/hmonindx.htm

Consumer Shopping Guide for Homeowners and Tenants Insurance

http://www.dfs.ny.gov/insurance/homeown/html/hmonguid.htm

Information on Auto Insurance

http://www.dfs.ny.gov/insurance/cauto.htm

Filing a Complaint with the Department of Financial Services

How To File A Complaint

Please use our on-line consumer complaint form to file a complaint about a consumer financial product or service. After submitting your complaint, you will receive immediate email confirmation and be assigned a file number. Please save that number and use it in any future correspondence.

The Department of Financial Services has new authority over previously unregulated consumer financial products and services. The Department reviews complaints to gather information on companies' compliance with law and to detect patterns of wrongdoing and/or fraud. The Department cannot attempt to resolve or otherwise handle every individual complaint, and we will notify you if your complaint is not being individually reviewed by the Consumer Assistance Unit.

Please be aware, it may be necessary to share a copy of your complaint with the company or individual that your complaint is against.

How to send us documents supporting your complaint

If you have an electronic copy of your supporting documents, you can upload them when you submit your complaint to us. If you only have paper copies of your documents, you can have them scanned so you can send them electronically.

If you cannot submit supporting documents electronically, you can send them by mail or fax. Do not mail your original documents to our Department. They cannot be returned to you. Be sure to include the file number you received when you submitted your complaint.

You may fax documents regarding a complaint already filed to 212-480-6282 or mail

Consumer Assistance Unit
NYS Department of Financial Services
25 Beaver Street
New York, NY 10004-2319

 

Consumer Assistance Unit
NYS Department of Financial Services
One Commerce Plaza
Albany, NY 12257

If You Have a General Question about Financial Services

The Department has compiled answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions about insurance such as auto insurance, health insurance, life insurance, no-fault, workers’ compensation, and Healthy New York, and such banking issues as bank accounts, writing checks, dealing with creditors, using credit cards, mortgages, interest rates, escheatment (relating to unclaimed funds), and many other insurance and banking related topics.

If you are unable to find the answer to your general question one our website, the Department is ready to handle inquiries over the telephone.

  • Insurance related questions: you may call Monday through Friday, 9AM to 5PM at 1-800-342-3736, 212-480-6400, or 518-474-6600.
  • Banking related questions: please call 1-877-BANK-NYS (1-877-226-5697).

How to file a complaint: http://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/fileacomplaint.htm

FAIR Plan Insurance by the New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association (NYPIUA)

Problems In Obtaining Insurance

Return to Homeowners Insurance Information index

If you are unable to find an insurance company that will sell you a homeowners or tenants policy to provide coverage for your home and personal property, special insurance programs are available. Such programs may include coverage for your residences located in flood prone areas. They include:

New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association (NYPIUA)

NYPIUA is an association of all insurance companies that sell fire insurance in New York State. Its Basic coverage form provides fire and extended coverage which include coverage for the following perils: windstorm, hail, explosion (except for steam boilers), riot, civil commotion, aircraft, vehicles, and smoke, as well as coverage for vandalism and malicious mischief. For a higher premium a Broad Form coverage form is available which includes coverage for the Basic coverage form perils plus coverage for the following perils: property damage by burglars (not theft of property), falling objects, weight of ice, snow or sleet, accidental discharge of water or steam, sudden cracking of a steam or hot water heating system, freezing, and sudden damage from artificial electric currents.

NYPIUA policies that include Broad Form coverage are subject to a 2% windstorm catastrophe deductible for insured properties located in the following counties: Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), Nassau, Queens, Richmond (Staten Island), Suffolk, Westchester. This deductible takes effect for windstorm losses twelve (12) hours before and after a hurricane category 2, 3, 4, or 5, as declared by the National Weather Service, makes landfall anywhere in New York State.

NYPIUA policies are offered on an actual cash value basis. However, policies written in conjunction with a voluntary market policy that includes an approved “wrap-around” endorsement can provide building coverage on a replacement cost basis (see Coastal Market Assistance Program section for additional information). NYPIUA policies do not include liability, flood, or theft coverage.

Since coverage offered through NYPIUA is limited and sold at a higher premium than coverage offered in the voluntary market, you and/or your agent or broker should make every effort to get this insurance from a voluntary insurer.

Detailed information is available from the New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association, 100 William Street, New York, NY 10038, 1-212-208-9700, online at http://nypiua.com, or from any licensed agent or broker in this state. Outside New York City, the toll-free information number is 1-800-522-3372.

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

Insurance coverage for losses resulting from floods is for the most part not provided in any of the previously described homeowners or tenants policies. Insurers are required to provide an annual policyholder notice to all homeowner and dwelling fire insureds advising that their policies do not provide coverage for loss caused by flood or mudslide and insurance is available under a separate policy issued through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Property owners can purchase insurance protection against losses from flooding through the NFIP if they reside in a community designated as a special flood hazard area which implements and enforces measures to reduce future flood risks. Residents of communities that initially participate in the NFIP are eligible for the Emergency Program providing a limited amount of insurance at federally subsidized rates. Once a community adheres to the more comprehensive floodplain management requirements of the NFIP, residents are eligible for the Regular Program under which they can purchase much higher amounts of insurance. The majority of New York State towns, villages and cities are participants in the NFIP. This program allows homeowners, tenants, cooperative apartments, and condominium owners and condominium associations to purchase insurance which will protect their residences and contents against direct physical loss by flood, loss resulting from flood-related erosion and damage caused by mudslide. However, you should read the policy carefully for exact definitions of physical hazards and specific requirements that must be met before claims will be paid. In some instances, the amounts of claim payments are defined by statute.

Under the Dwelling Form and the General Property Form of the Standard Flood Insurance Policy, coverage limits up to $250,000 for the structure and $100,000 for contents are available in communities participating in the NFIP. Higher deductibles, over the standard deductible of $1,000, are available, which can help reduce the total cost of this insurance. The deductibles apply separately to building and contents, although both may be damaged in the same flood.

Excess flood insurance is available from a few insurance companies. Excess flood insurance is a separate policy offering higher limits for flood coverage and is written over a primary policy.

The NFIP coverage involves a 30-day waiting period before the policy becomes effective; however, there are exceptions. Additional information on this program can be obtained from your insurance agent or broker, or by contacting the NFIP at 1-888- 379.9531 or TTY# 1-800-427-5593 or online at www.floodsmart.gov or www.fema.gov.

Coastal Market Assistance Program (C-MAP)

C-MAP is a voluntary network of insurers and insurance producers that assist New York homeowners in coastal areas find insurance coverages. C-MAP is administered by NYPIUA.

The program is for owner-occupied, one-to-four family dwellings, apartment units, or condominium units located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Nassau, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk and Westchester. On Long Island’s south shore and forks, and in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, the dwelling must be located within one mile of the shore. On the north shore of Long Island and in the Bronx and Westchester, the home must be within 2,500 feet of the shore to qualify for consideration.

Before applying to C-MAP, a homeowner must have received a non-renewal, cancellation, or conditional non-renewal notice from their existing insurer for a reason other than non-payment of premium. For new home purchases, applicants are required to identify the prior homeowner’s insurer. An insured can obtain coverages similar to a homeowners policy with the Basic or Broad Form coverage from NYPIUA and the liability, personal property, theft and other coverages provided by a voluntary market policy that includes what is commonly referred to as a “wrap-around” endorsement from a licensed insurer participating in the C-MAP program.

NYPIUA policies are written on an Actual Cash Value basis: however, policies written in conjunction with a voluntary market policy that includes an approved wrap-around endorsement can provide building coverage on a replacement cost basis. If a voluntary market policy includes windstorm coverage and insures building and/or personal property in excess of a NYPIUA policy, replacement cost coverage is available from NYPIUA for the personal property as well as the building.

For information about C-MAP, please contact NYPIUA at 1-212-208-9700 or online at http://nypiua.com/cmap.html.

Homeowners Insurance in the Excess Line Market

Under certain circumstances prescribed in the New York Insurance Law and regulations, a property owner may purchase homeowners coverage from unlicensed companies. These unlicensed companies are called excess line insurers and a property owner must use a broker, known as an excess line broker, that is specifically licensed for this purpose in New York.

A property owner may obtain homeowners insurance from a New York eligible excess line insurer through a New York-licensed excess line broker only after coverage has been declined by at least three licensed insurers. Excess line insurers are exempt from New York’s rate and form filing requirements, so policyholders should read their excess line homeowners policy thoroughly. The coverages and deductibles in these policies may differ from those issued by licensed insurers. It should also be noted that in the event of the insolvency of an excess line insurer, the homeowner is not protected by the Property/Casualty Insurance Security Fund.

Read Empire Justice Center’s report on the FAIR Plan:

http://www.empirejustice.org/publications/reports/archives/how-fair-is-nys-fair-plan.html

To find out about FAIR Plan Insurance by the New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association (NYPIUA)

www.nypiua.com

History of NYPIUA:

http://www.nypiua.com/history.html

Answers to questions on FAIR Plan/NYPIUA insurance

http://www.nypiua.com/faqs.html

To get a dwelling premium quote:

http://www.nypiua.com/prem.htm

On-line application and instructions for basic dwelling policy:

http://www.nypiua.com/nbdinf.html

On-line application and instructions for broad form policy:

http://www.nypiua.com/nbdp2inf.html

Use of Credit Information by Insurers

Standards for Use of Credit Information in Personal Lines of Insurance (including homeowners)

http://www.dfs.ny.gov/insurance/r_finala/2006/pdf/rf182txt.pdf

National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)

http://www.naic.org/

NAIC Consumer Information Source

https://eapps.naic.org/cis/

This includes consumer complaint data by company and state and insurance company financial information.

Provided as a resource by:

Empire Justice Center
1 West Main Street, Suite 200
Rochester, NY 14614
585-454-4060

Last updated: March 22, 2012

 





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