Insurance Problems?
Call us at 1-800-332-6148

For most of us, our home is our most expensive investment — and it pays to protect it. But home is more than just the money we spend on it. It’s the memories we make in it and the way it shapes our lives. For that reason, homeowner’s insurance safeguards our investment and ensures that we can recover after a disaster.

It pays to understand how homeowners insurance works and to educate yourself about options before you buy. We’ve gathered our expertise here.

What’s a Rate Guide and Why Do We Write One?

The cost of homeowners insurance is based on many variables: where you live in Montana, whether you live in town or out-of-town (and have access to an around-the-clock fire department), how your home was constructed, and so on. All homeowners insurance policies sold in Montana must be reviewed by this office before they can be sold to you. We examine the policies to ensure they meet Montana law and do not discriminate against any Montanans. That means we see all plans before they are sold — and analyze them. Plans that don’t pass muster cannot be sold. We couldn’t do that job if we didn’t know the ins and outs of homeowners insurance.

Everything you ever wanted to know about homeowner’s insurance.
We’ve got it right here.

Price Comparison (pdf)

Our rate guide uses that data and expertise to help you compare the prices of all plans sold in Montana — and help you determine if the price you are quoted is fair. Our general homeowners guide is a great reference for Montanans who want help to understand what homeowners insurance will cover and what they can expect from their homeowners policy.

The Top Eleven

“Replacement cost coverage” pays to replace your home and belongings with materials of “like kind and quality” at current prices. Actual cash-value (ACV) policies reimburse the depreciated value. A replacement cost policy will usually cost a little more. Some companies may not offer replacement cost coverage.

Your insurance company will pay for the actual cash value first, but will not pay for replacement cost until the entire repair is complete. The difference between ACV and replacement cost is called “recoverable depreciation.”

Flood damage is not covered by most homeowners policies. A separate policy can be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program. Private flood insurance policies may also be available. For more information contact NFIP at (888) 379-9531 or contact our office at 1-800-332-6148.
Your company must send you notice at least 20 days in advance of your policy being canceled for nonpayment of premium.

If your policy has been “non-renewed” — in other words, the company is not continuing to cover you for a reason other than non-payment — the company must give you a 45-day written notice that your coverage is ending. If you, the consumer, wish to cancel a policy in the middle of your insurance term, we recommend you check with your insurance agent or read your insurance policy about the best way to accomplish this. Some policies contain a provision that consumers cannot cancel their policies mid-term unless the consumer contacts the insurance company in writing. If you simply stop paying your premium in an effort to cancel the policy, you could end up owing the cost of the term.

Most homeowner policies have “dollar limits” on certain types of belongings. Generally, these limits are on silverware, guns, jewelry, watches, furs, and computers. Talk to your agent or insurance company about increasing these limits to meet your individual needs.
Most homeowner policies exclude damage caused by water. There are however instances in which coverage is provided. You will need to read your policy and/or discuss the policy terms with your agent or adjuster.
If an agent tells you one price, but your bill is for a higher premium, it could be that a simple mistake was made in processing your application. Check to see if the amounts of insurance, deductible, scheduled items and policy endorsements are the same on the policy and the quote. If you can’t find a discrepancy, check with your agent or company to find out if the bill is correct. If the bill is higher than you expected, ask for an explanation. You will probably find there is an honest misunderstanding between you and your agent. These misunderstandings or “misquotes” can happen when the agent does not have accurate information about your property or about what kind of coverage you want.
One common reason insurance companies do not pay for the full cost of replacing damage has to do with the materials a contractor proposes in his or her bid. For example, you may have had T-Lock shingles damaged in a hail storm and require a new roof. T-Lock shingles are no longer manufactured. Since T-lock shingles are no longer available the insurance company must find shingles as close as possible the damaged shingles on your roof. Your policy allows for “like kind and quality materials” on repairs or replacement of your damaged property. If your contractor prepares an estimate for a metal roof that will replace a shingled roof the insurance company doesn’t have to cover the difference in cost.

Keep in mind, your insurance policy is a contract and sometimes there is limited or no coverage at all for certain things. Your contractor may say that you need an entirely new roof and the insurance adjuster says it can be repaired instead of being replaced. The key to what triggers coverage is whether the damage is caused by a covered event or “peril”. Review your policy to make sure what “perils” are covered. Things like hail, wind or fire are covered “perils”. If your contractor tells you need a new roof be sure to clarify why it needs to be replaced. Does it need replacement because of hail or does it need to be replaced because it is a 30-year-old roof with significant “wear and tear? If the reason for replacement is simply because it old and in poor condition (wear and tear) your policy may not provide coverage because “wear and tear” is an exclusion under the policy.

While homeowners insurance is not designed to cover most business uses of your home, some policies might cover some business uses, at least partially. For example, if you use your home computer or laptop for business, it’s often covered. However, you should check your policy limits to make sure. Your laptop might be covered even it is lost, damaged or stolen while you are away from your home.

Most homeowner policies provide a limited amount of liability coverage if you care for a friend’s children and are not paid. If you provide daycare in your home for a fee, you must buy more insurance to cover this additional liability.

The best way to resolve this type of problem is to request that your contractor and your adjuster meet directly or have a phone conversation to discuss the discrepancies and determine a mutually agreeable cost of repair.
Yes, but only if they have disclosed to you that filing one claim is a criteria for non-renewal.
At this time the Insurance Commissioner has virtually no regulatory authority over the rates an insurance company charges. Montana is a “File and Use” state. This means that insurance companies are required to file their rates with our office and then can begin to charge those rates.

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