By Tim Norris
The author has permitted the reprinting and redistribution of this article.
It is a commonly misunderstood challenge clarifying the timeless issue of how to properly insure a “subject to” property. The obvious dilemma is the “Due on Sale” (DOS) clause being invoked and the mortgage company calling the note. Though seemingly complex, some common sense rules-of-thumb usually apply. If you (or your entity) own, or have a financial “stake” in the property, be the “first named insured”. The first named insured is the primary recipient of any potential claim benefit or liability protection. An “additional insured” will garner liability protection only. A “loss payee” will have its interests protected in the event the property itself is damaged. (A mortgagee is inherently BOTH). If you decide to keep the “homeowner’s” policy in place and be named as the additional insured, be advised. If it is discovered that the ex-owner, the first-named insured in this case, no longer owns the property, expect the insurer to deny based upon the fact the policyholder no longer owns the property. Even if you manage the claim to be paid, you are not the entity to receive the proceeds, as you are not the first-named insured. If you did attempt to be added as a loss payee as well, chances are the insurer will question the necessity for you being named as such. When the insurer discovers you now own the property, they will need to write a new policy.
The proper way to insure the property, once you (or your entity) own it, is to have a non-owner occupied “landlord” policy, with you as the new first named insured. The bankmortgage company is named, as normal, as mortgagee. The prior owner should be named as the additional insured ONLY. Naming the prior owner as additional insured will usually keep the mortgage company happy. But, you may ask, why not keep the ex-owners policy in place One concern of carrying 2 policies on the same property is that most policies have “excess” clauses. In other words, the policy will pay only excess amounts, if any other policy exists. If each of the 2 policies have such a clause it will create havoc in getting a loss paid…
To further clarify the scenario here is a hypothetical example Property has a “homeowner” and a “landlord” policy (both) on it. Fire occurs. Owner files a claim under the landlord policy. So far, so good. However, “tenant” (prior owner, or new occupant), has personal property damage. He must also file claim, but against his “homeowners” or tenants policy. The respective insurance company on each claim is bound to find out of the other policy’s existence and could (more than likely would) attempt to invoke the “excess” clause of it’s own contract, potentially leaving the owner waiting for courtsarbitration to settle… I wouldn’t take the chance with 2 policies. If an insurer has an opportunity to mitigate, or deny, a loss if there are contractual issues, be sure they’ll try!
(As an added note, if the prior owner moves out, the “homeowners” policy is no longer valid as the property is now “non-owner-occupied”). Bottom line if you own it, you insure it. If the fact that a DOS clause iswould be invoked if the insurance policy changes, I would walk away before potentially diminishing or even sacrificing coverage by trying to “skirt” the correct way to insure the property. In 12 years, we have yet to have a loan called (knock wood) by insuring the new owner on a “landlord” policy and naming the bank (and the old owner) as mortgagee and additional insured respectively.
Hope this helps your understanding.
Tim Norris National Real Estate Insurance Group, LLC httpwww.nreinsurance.com 2008
At 0734PM on February 01, 2009 – James Miller said…
Great article. I get insurance on all of my subject to’s, but there could be an argument against getting your own policy if you have very little invested, or are going to flip it quickly. If you choose to do either of those you are certainly rolling the dice and need to fully understand the risk being taken. James httpwww.realestategozone.wordpress.com
At 0754PM on February 01, 2009 – Tim Norris said…
Thanks…if you have multi-property policy andor an insurer that will pro-rate a credit or a refund, I’d buy the coverage, even if I only owned it for a day. Remember, liability is at least as important as the property coverage. No sense taking a chance for even a day! ; )
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