Guest Op-Ed: We need to protect homeowners from insurance companies

As a homeowner, who in the past has been misled by insurance companies, I understand the need to create protections for homeowners. This past session, I supported the Homeowners Bill of Rights, which requires insurers to provide homeowners with a disclosure notice detailing their property and casualty coverage in the event of a disaster.

Specifically, the disclosure notice would include information on:

  • •Coverage or limitations on coverage for certain catastrophic losses;
  • •Claims investigations and proceedings;
  • •The rights of the insured under the law;
  • •Provisions that could be modified or changed in accordance with the law following a disaster; and
  • •Any other information deemed necessary by the state Superintendent of Financial Services.
  • Every homeowner has the right to know what kind of insurance he or she has and what kind of coverage they might need if a natural disaster strikes. Unfortunately, many homeowners are not fully informed about the details of their coverage, leaving them unprepared for potential catastrophic damage to their homes. The Homeowners Bill of Rights would require insurance companies to provide consumers with easy-to-understand notices so they are better prepared.

    Additionally, if a homeowner’s policy does not include coverage for certain catastrophic losses, the insurer would be required to provide them with information pertaining to other available coverage options.

    The legislation would also require the disclosure of a consumer’s flood zone and direct the state Department of Financial Services to develop a Consumer Guide on Insuring against Catastrophic Loss.

    Following recent disasters like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricanes Irene and Lee, many homeowners have been shocked to find their insurance claims denied or their settlements substantially less than the cost of the damages to their homes. This was a serious problem that plagued my district of North Brooklyn, as many property owners lived in low-lying areas surrounded by Newtown Creek and the East River.

    In times of crisis, when assistance is needed most, no one should be denied the coverage they thought they had because of a lack of information on their policy. An individual’s home is his or her sanctuary and should be treated as such – they should not be taken advantage of by insurance companies that fail to provide them with sufficient information. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to consider this legislation next session.

    Assemblymember Joseph Lentol represents the 50th Assembly District.

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