Leaky Insurance

Ron Wayne

I JUST LEARNED a hard lesson about insurance companies: They have the upper hand.

Water leaked into my ground-floor condo’s bathroom and laundry room from a unit two floors above. The unit owner offered to report the damage to his insurance company, but I decided I should call mine for advice. A rep told me that I could file claims with my insurer and it would then seek compensation from the other unit’s insurance through subrogation, a term I had to look up.

According to Investopedia, “Subrogation is a term describing a right held by most insurance carriers to legally pursue a third party that caused an insurance loss to the insured. This is done in order to recover the amount of the claim paid by the insurance carrier to the insured for the loss.”

I decided it was safer to file with my insurance company, Security First, where I had been a customer for many years. The result of this decision: It canceled my policy and I was forced to obtain a new policy from a different company that’ll cost me $120 more per year.

When I asked why I was being canceled, Security First said it couldn’t prove negligence by the other unit’s owner, so it had to pay my claims. On top of that, my claims counted as two instances—and two water damage claims made in a year result in cancellation. I just wish the company had stated this possibility more explicitly before I filed my claims.

If I’d known two claims would cancel my policy, I wouldn’t have filed the claim on my laundry room leak because the ceiling was just wet. By contrast, the bathroom leak damaged the drywall above and behind the shower spigot.

The adjuster said the damage in the laundry room was less than my policy’s $500 deductible, so I received nothing on that claim—and yet it cost me my insurance. Perhaps this is disclosed in the fine print of my policy, but has anyone ever actually read an entire insurance policy?

I called my state insurance commissioner’s office, and a worker there explained that insurance companies have this right. The worker also offered this depressing scenario: She said I could have several car accidents that weren’t my fault, and I could then have my auto policy canceled. I never thought about that possibility before. I guess I need to drive even more defensively—and maybe move to a top floor.

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