November, 2007
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Inspector’s E&O Insurance: Market Softens – Prices Drop

DAVID BRAUNER

Instead of the now familiar direction to “shop ‘til you drop,” new insurance conditions suggest instead that inspectors should shop because they’ve dropped. We’re talking about rates for errors and omissions insurance, of course. The market is finally softening back to where it was before 9/11, and the good news is that you have more choices than ever — broader coverages and lower rates.

If you are a single inspector and haven’t shopped for awhile, you will be surprised at the lower premiums now available. Minimum premiums for policies with very broad coverage including free prior acts, coverage for referring parties, radon, pest, commercial and more, are back below $2,000! Multiple-inspector firms also are benefiting from the new market — especially with programs that don’t charge extra premium for additional inspectors. Here are a few shopping tips to help you make an informed decision about your coverage and premium choices. 

Covering multiple inspectors

If you pay “per inspector” to cover your multiple-inspector firm, not all programs charge per inspector. You may be paying more than you have to. This also is true if you pay extra for corporate coverage, pest, radon or commercial inspections. If you have risked not covering every inspector doing work for your firm in the last few years because the cost became prohibitive, there are programs today that will cover all inspectors for one low premium,
including independent contractors.

Simple rules for maintaining prior acts


Claims-made policies provide coverage for claims that are made and reported during the policy period. What does this mean? It means that claims are covered for as long as the policy is in force — 1 year, 10 years or longer, as long as coverage is continuous (no break in
coverage). Here’s how to avoid a break in coverage and preserve prior acts: 

• Don’t let your policy lapse. If you are renewing with your current carrier, renew on time (on or before expiration) to preserve your prior acts.

• If you switch carriers, the rules are the same: bind with the new carrier on or before expiration. (If switching carriers, make sure to get prior acts coverage from the new carrier — some provide it free.)

• If you stop inspecting and no longer need or want insurance, purchase optional extended reporting or tail coverage to cover the inspections completed while insured.

Renewing 


If you’re renewing your policy with the same company, make sure to renew on or before expiration. It’s that simple. You should receive multiple reminders as your expiration draws near to make certain you know your policy is expiring and what is at stake, including by mail, e-mail and phone. If money is tight, your insurance carrier may offer financing. We assume most companies make a similar effort to keep your business and do their due diligence. It is always wise to follow up to make sure your new or renewal application has been received by mail, fax or e-mail. 

Switching carriers  


To qualify for prior acts from the new carrier, there needs to be continuous coverage. What does this mean? It means you must switch on or before your current policy expires so there is no break in coverage. Most companies have a question on the application for insurance that asks if you have current coverage. If you indicate you have insurance, you will be asked to provide proof of coverage (your declarations page).

Most companies have a grace period of at least a few days after expiration. Each company is different, so make sure to ask your agent how long your grace period is, in case you need it. Don’t give in to the pressure to make a quick decision, but also avoid problems by shopping in advance; always renew or switch on or before expiration.
If you can’t find your declarations page, ask your current agent to resend it. That’s what you pay your agent for. Always check the dates on this document to make sure coverage goes back as far as it should.

What is the cost of Prior Acts? 


OREP does not charge for prior acts coverage. Our understanding is that most companies who provide E&O to inspectors do not charge for prior acts coverage. If you’re unsure, ask your agent.

Don’t be bullied


Give yourself sufficient time to shop before expiration for the reasons explained above. If your insurance
company pressures you for a renewal decision well in advance of your expiration date (or they imply you risk losing your prior acts coverage if you don’t renew in advance), they may be trying to limit your ability to shop. You can guess why.

Remember this: you don’t have to stay with your current company to preserve your prior acts. You can switch and preserve your prior acts as long as you switch coverage before it expires. Don’t give in to the pressure to make a quick decision but also avoid problems by shopping in advance; always renew or switch on or before expiration. If you’re getting close, ask your agent about your grace period.

Extended reporting or tail coverage


If you choose to stop inspecting and to terminate or not renew your insurance, you can keep coverage for past inspections with optional extending reporting period or tail coverage. Extended reporting or tail coverage is offered by most claims-made carriers for an additional premium.


Tail coverage provides coverage for work completed during the policy period for a number of years into the future (after your policy terminates).

What does this mean? If you have a claims-made policy and decide to stop inspecting, you can purchase tail coverage for inspections completed during the policy period for as far back as you’ve been covered continuously, and for a number of years forward after the policy expires. If you plan to stop inspecting, you should have the option to purchase this coverage. Ask your agent for more information.  

Peace of mind

There is peace of mind in knowing you’ve done the numbers, understand the issues and are making an informed decision. If you haven’t done the numbers lately, you owe it to yourself and your business to compare coverages and prices. This is especially true if you pay “per inspector” for your multiple-inspector firm or if you pay extra for corporate coverage, pest, radon or
commercial inspections.

The insurance market has changed in the years since 9/11. You have more choices; make your decision an informed one.


Disclaimer: This article is written from an insurance perspective and is meant to be used for informational purposes only. It is not the intent of this article to provide legal advice, or advice for any specific fact, situation or circumstance. Contact legal counsel for
specific advice.

David Brauner is Senior Broker at OREP (www.orep.org) and has been involved in providing E&O insurance for home inspectors for 15 years. He is licensed in 49 states. Calif. insurance #0C89873.

He can be reached at: dbrauner@orep.org or 888-347-5273.