What Is Force-Placed Home Insurance?
Force-placed home insurance is insurance your mortgage bank places on your home when you fail to maintain contractually required home insurance coverage.
Why Do I Need Home Insurance?
When you signed your mortgage commitment, one of the requirements you agreed to do was maintain home insurance on your home. This homeowners insurance policy would contain a certain amount of Coverage A – Dwelling Coverage, as well as a mortgagee clause, naming the bank and your loan number.
When you think about it, home insurance protects the homeowner against the loss of what is once again, the single largest purchase many families will ever make. Imagine a fire reducing your home to cinders and burned bricks. Without home insurance containing coverages in the proper amounts, you’d probably suffer a total loss of all you’d worked so hard to acquire.
So How Does The Bank Figure Into All Of This?
When a bank makes a home mortgage loan this creates the need for the bank to protect its interest in the collateral supporting the loan, otherwise known as the home. So the bank is fully within its right to require you keep certain coverage on the home.
What Creates The Need For The Force-Placed Home Insurance?
Your mortgage is composed of four (4) basic components:
- Principal, or the amount which amortizes or reduces the amount you owe the bank.
- Interest, or the cost of the money you’re borrowing. (What, you thought you get a $500,000 loan for free?)
- Taxes, or what your local municipality charges you for your home to sit in or on dirt. This amount is usually based on the number of stories, square footage and lot size of the house. That’s right, you’re paying more just to have the huge burned lawn.
- Insurance, which is my favorite part.
The portion of the mortgage for the taxes and homeowners insurance are escrowed monthly. That means a part of the quarterly or annual bills for each are collected and held by the bank each month, presumably to make payments when due. The key point to remember is the escrow system works well when your monthly mortgage payments are made on time each and every month. Fall behind by even one payment and you ‘ve developed a shortage in your escrow account.
Now here’s the kicker. Let’s say you bought a home during the period I will always call “The Time of Home Purchase Madness.” First, you paid too much for the house. Second, you someone qualified for a mortgage by being able to fog a mirror. No documentation, lousy credit score, and no down payment? Heck, certain mortgage brokers would knock their mommas out of the way to get you a loan.
Let’s move forward to what I call the “What The Hell Were We Thinking?” or, “What Do We Do Now?” time. That’s when too many people realized they should’ve stayed in their rent-stabilized apartments, kept the affordable home they already had, or kept sleeping on Mom’s couch. Suddenly, you miss first one mortgage payment, then another. Now, banks will move heaven and earth to make sure the real estate taxes on your home are always paid on time. The last thing they want is to lose a property they’re holding a note on to someone who purchases a tax lien.
Banks Do The Same Thing For The Home Insurance, Right?
Let’s imagine your escrow is now short by two to four months payments. Home insurance bills are usually sent to the bank or mortgage servicing company 30 days before the due date.
In the worse case scenario, you have an escrow shortage when the bill from your homeowners insurance company arrives.
Guess what? Since you failed to keep up your end of the bargain, the bank is not required to go out of pocket to pay your homeowners insurance premium . The policy usually lapses. And then guess what happens? Because your world is collapsing around you, and each day brings more despair, you stop opening the mail or answering the telephone. It’s only months later when you learn your homeowners insurance policy lapsed and the bank placed another, force-placed policy on your home. And what gives you a clue? The sudden increase in the negative balance of your escrow account to the tune of $3000 to $8000.
Why so much? Because they can. It’s stupid, really. Instead of just paying a premium of say, $1800, the bank instead buys a policy for you which will cost at least three times as much. With less coverage. See, that’s the real zinger: Every force-placed policy I’ve ever seen covers only one thing – the outstanding mortgage balance.
There’s no coverage for your personal belongings in case of fire or theft. No coverage for liability should someone injure themselves on your property. No coverage to help you with the added expenses of renting an apartment while your home is being rebuilt.
Not even the full replacement cost of your home.
Just the outstanding mortgage balance.
And you’re paying at least three times as much for the privilege to get less coverage.
In my next post about force-placed home insurance, I’ll talk about how it will continue to drag down the economy, how to avoid having it happen to you, and what to do if it does happens to you. Also, I’ll include a link to a radio interview I did back in 2009, about the force-placed home insurance problem.
Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF is a Brooklyn-based independent insurance agent and broker. Contact him today to make an appointment to review your home, life, disability, flood, renters, condo, coop, and auto insurance program. You can also reach him by email at Eustace@insuremeeg.com. And please take a moment to subscribe to BrooklynCovered.com.