Insurance agents, divorce attorneys, elder law attorneys, wills, trusts and estate attorneys, and real estate attorneys need to read this post. They also need to read “Where You Reside” – The “Where’s Waldo®?” Catastrophic Homeowners Policy ‘Exclusion’ That Could Bankrupt Your Insureds, by insurance coverage expert Bill Wilson. Wilson’s article shows how often coverage can be lost just by common changes of where people are living.

Wilson lists 16 very common situations which can cause a “nonresidency” which then leads to losing coverage:

  • Nursing Homes
  • Relocations
  • Foreclosures
  • Rentals
  • Child Occupies Parents’ Home
  • Parent Occupies Child’s Home
  • Divorce
  • Illness or Infirmary of Insured
  • Death of Insured
  • Trusts
  • Homes Owned by LLCs and Corporations
  • Seller Remains After Closing
  • Seller Moves Out Before Closing
  • Buyer Moves In or Takes Possession Before Closing
  • Renovations / Homes Under Construction
  • Vacancy and/or Unoccupancy

These situations happen all the time. What most people, including many insurance agents, fail to realize is these common changing circumstances can also lead to policyholders having no coverage. For example, a friend of mine is buying a house for her son to live, but she is keeping the title in her name and does not intend to live there. An insurance agent tried to sell her an ISO Homeowners form policy which would have left her uninsured because while she is the owner, she is not residing at the home. I told her to find a “Trusted Choice” trained insurance agent and explain the coverage issue to make certain she has coverage.

Christopher Boggs wrote a wonderful book, “Property and Casualty Insurance Concepts Simplified—The Ultimate ‘How To’ Insurance Guide for Agents, Brokers, Underwriters and Adjusters.” One of the basic questions he teaches is to ask whether the property is covered. When the policy requires the insured to “reside” at the premises and the insured is not residing at the premises because of various life circumstances, lack of coverage problems often occur.

An insurance agent expert, Brent Winans, sent me some research on the issue. He noted that the ISO has produced six endorsements to help remediate the problem. One article, “New Homeowners Endorsements Help Solve Huge Coverage Gap,” written by Mike Edwards, noted:

[I]t is important to note that the ISO Homeowners forms have included the “where you reside” language in the Definitions section since the 1984 edition was introduced, replacing the HO-76 edition. And in the 1984 ISO filing made with state insurance regulators, ISO made no mention of its intent to have the “where you reside” language be interpreted to deny Coverage A claims.

Additionally, it wasn’t until around 2001 that the first denials of claims based on the “where you reside” language began to become known in the industry. In the years following, a growing number of questions from agents across the country began coming in to the IIABA’s (Independent Insurance Agents Brokers of America) Virtual University “Ask An Expert” service. In 2005, IIABA’s national Technical Affairs Committee began discussions with ISO on the problem. The end result was the ISO filing of the 6 new Homeowners endorsements, which many states have adopted for October 1, 2015.

The lesson is obvious for professionals who deal with clients on the move for one reason or another—insurance policies must be analyzed and possibly changed if the owner of property is not living at the insured property.

Thought For The Day

I love being a gypsy. Home is between New York and California.
—Erin Wasson