Home insurance companies may use aerial images to drop policies

By Sarah Schlichter | NerdWallet

It’s a notice no homeowner wants to get: Your insurance company has decided not to renew your policy, effective in 30 days. The reason? Based on aerial photos of your home, your roof is in poor condition.

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Your first response might be outrage. Is your insurance company spying on you? Can it really take photos of your house at any time?

The practice is legal — and in some ways it’s nothing new, according to insurance experts. Looking at aerial photos “is just another method of doing something that insurers have always been doing,” says Bob Passmore, vice president of personal lines at the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

Inspecting homes is part of a process called underwriting, in which an insurer evaluates how likely you are to file a claim. In the past, many home insurance inspections were done in person. Someone might drive by your house to take photos or come inside for a thorough investigation.

While these inspections still happen, many insurance companies are relying on aerial images as a cheaper, more efficient way to see your property. But to homeowners shocked by a non-renewal, it can feel like a violation.

“Just because a technological opportunity exists doesn’t mean it can or should be used without guardrails and consumer protections,” says Doug Heller, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America. “Using images that were gathered without consumer awareness, or let alone consent, is really problematic.”

How insurers use aerial images

Insurance companies study aerial photos for issues that could lead to future claims. Red flags may include:

Debris in your yard. “It could be home for vermin. It could be a trip-and-fall hazard,” says Karl Susman, owner of the Susman Insurance Agency in Los Angeles.

Trees hanging over your home. “That’s a horrible, horrible fire risk,” Susman says. A tree could also crash onto your house in a storm.

Trampolines or swimming pools you didn’t tell the insurer about. These could be a lawsuit risk, Passmore says.

But the biggest issue may be the condition …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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