Insurance Circular Letter No. 8 (2021)
September 2, 2021
All authorized property/casualty insurance companies issuing homeowners insurance policies in the below-designated counties
Insurance Claims Arising out of Tropical Depression Ida
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY REFERENCES: Insurance Law Article 26, 11 NYCRR 216 (Insurance Regulation 64), National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (“NFIA”), and 44 CFR Part 62
On September 2, 2021, Governor Hochul declared a State of Emergency within the counties of Bronx, Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester in response to major flooding due to Tropical Depression Ida. In addition to other emergency assistance provided by the Governor, the Department of Financial Services (the “Department”) deployed a mobile unit and staff to Grinton I. Will Library, 1500 Central Park Ave, Yonkers to provide insurance advice and other assistance to affected residents. Current information regarding the location of the mobile unit on a given day can be found on the Department’s website.
In this emergency situation, the Department expects all insurers to do their part. Due to the severity of the flooding and extent of damage to homeowners and businesses, it is imperative that the insurance industry work towards a fair and speedy resolution of claims. Insurers should also fulfill their obligations as good corporate citizens in this state by assisting policyholders with helpful information regarding emergency aid, tips for damage prevention, and resources for remediating damage. For example, insurers should direct policyholders trying to reach the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) to www.DisasterAssistance.gov and 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585). Additional useful FEMA information can be found using the following links:
Accordingly, the Department reminds all carriers covering homes or businesses in the areas affected by the flooding of their obligations as follows:
- Carriers are required to increase their resources to ensure proper treatment of their policyholders during this State of Emergency;
- Carriers must allow claimants to make immediate repairs to damaged property if necessary to protect health or safety;
- Carriers must allow claimants to provide as reasonable proof items such as photographs or video recordings (without the need for a physical inspection), material samples (if applicable), inventories, and receipts for any repairs to or replacement of property;
- Carriers and their third-party adjusters must promptly assess claims;
- Carriers must provide affected policyholders with fair and equitable claim settlement treatment under the New York Insurance Law and Regulations;
- Carriers must not deny claims caused by multiple perils when not all perils are covered under the applicable policy; and
- Carriers should make timely payments of claims that arise out of covered perils.
This Circular Letter also reminds carriers that Insurance Law § 2601 and Insurance Regulation 64 apply fully to those providing coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”) Write Your Own Program (“WYO”), notwithstanding that the NFIP is a federal program administered by FEMA. NFIA does not purport to preempt state claims handling or other laws. Further, 44 CFR Part 62 expressly provides that, among other things, WYO insurers are “subject to audit, examination, and regulatory controls of the various States” and a WYO insurer must process WYO flood claims in the same manner as the insurer processes its claims for all its other policies.
In light of the recent increase in extreme weather and climate events, carriers are once again reminded to maintain adequate New York-licensed independent adjuster staff to respond to these events. However, carriers that feel the need to augment their adjuster work force to meet their contractual and regulatory obligations may apply to sponsor individuals not licensed as independent adjusters in New York, but otherwise qualified to adjust claims, as temporary adjusters. The application form can be found on the Department’s website.
The Department will continue to monitor the situation and assist affected residents and businesses with insurance-related issues. The Department appreciates all insurers’ cooperation in this effort.
Acting Superintendent of Financial Services