In the last two weeks, Puerto Rico has experienced earthquakes that have caused significant damage to homes and buildings, especially in the southwest area of the island closest to the earthquake epicenters. Many of these properties have collapsed and others are under dangerous conditions. The government has asked the people to abandon homes that are not safe, and the Governor declared a State of Emergency due to the seismic activity continues in Puerto Rico.
Thousands of people are living and sleeping on the streets or at informal camps as they fear going back into their homes in affected areas. Due to this situation, Puerto Rico’s Insurance Commissioner has issued Normative Letter Number CN-2020-256-D with instructions to all insurers regarding coverage exclusions for properties that are unoccupied or vacant.
In his letter the Insurance Commissioner stated:
[F]or the protection of the best interest of public safety and in furtherance of a sound and a reasonable public administration is providing that all insurers that are authorized to contract property and casualty insurance in Puerto Rico may not deny any claim of an insured who has been relocated from their home or property by any competent state or federal authority or who has been forced to temporarily abandon their home or property under reasonable circumstances, which would otherwise be covered, because the property was unoccupied or vacant. Any provision in the insurance contract regarding exclusion of coverage because of the property being unoccupied or vacant will not be applicable under the aforementioned circumstances.
This Ruling Letter will not be applicable to insureds who had abandoned their properties permanently, before January 6, 2020. The guidelines established herein will be in effect from the date of this Ruling Letter until the end of the state of emergency or when the Commissioner of Insurance suspends the effect thereof, whichever occurs first.
As the seismic activity continues in Puerto Rico, insureds should remain safe and contact their insurer to initiate the claim process, if needed.