Friday, February 26, 2010

Home Owners Insurance Woes

I just bought a house. For reals, first time home buyer here! I'm both giddy and overwhelmed by the entire process. It's taken less than a month to find the home and, today, sign all the escrow documents to close.

Before the loan could be approved, I needed a quote from a homeowner's insurance agency.

I first called State Farm. I use them for my rental insurance, and they do not discriminate based on the type of dog you own. The quote seemed expensive. The loan agent suggest I call AAA. I use them for my car insurance and you can generally get a good discount for having multiple policies with the same company.

When I asked about their dog policy, the agent (a really nice person, by the way) said: "No Pit Bulls, Dobermans, Rottweilers, German Shepherds or Chow Chows".

Oh, I said. Well, I have a Pit Bull.

Is she purebred, he asked?

Well, I don't know. She's from a shelter. I have no clue who her parents were or what is in her lineage. But, I don't think I could get away with calling her anything else.

He paused and then proceeded to try and find a way for me to get this insurance. By fudging the truth and saying Mina's a mixed breed. And if she was on site when the inspector came - hide her. He's made this suggestion many times to people as a way to bypass what many agents feel is an unfair and discriminatory law.

The kicker was that the insurance was nearly $400 cheaper a year than State Farm. It was tempting.

But the reality is that I'll always have Pit Bulls in my life. I will never willingly bring into my home a dog who goes about eating people. Perhaps the only accident I could see happening is a dog-dog encounter on the front lawn or, perhaps, a dog-cat encounter in my backyard. Accidents happen, of course, but like I have managed Mina's leash reactivity, I would go about managing any aggressive dog's behavior (assuming I'm not on the receiving end of repeated attacks, of course).

I might want a Doberman in my life. Or maybe a Rottie mix. Or a German Shepherd (Celeste is my German Monkey, but her lineage remains a mystery). And it might be that the dog is not a *want* but a *need* - that is, a dog who has nowhere else to go or who bonds with me and I with them. I don't want to be concerned that, should the unthinkable happen and my dog does harm someone or another animal, my insurance agency is going to drop me and deny a claim because of my dog's breed.

So, I decided to pick up State Farm's car insurance and homeowner's insurance. I get a multi-policy discount and, yeah, still pay more than $200 a year than AAA.

But I'm okay with that.

I like that the only questions State Farm asks is: Have your dogs bitten anyone? and Are you dogs trained to attack? I told them Mina is trained to snuggle. This is perfectly insurable behavior.

While I appreciate AAA attempting to bypass the internal regulation, I could not bring myself to do it. I wouldn't besmirch anyone who chose differently - for some, $200 a year means much, much, much more than to me (it means something, but not as much as it might if I had, say, two kids and was a single mom). It is just sad anyone would have to be put in that position over dogs who have done nothing to earn such an unfair label of "not insurable."


Daisy Dog said...

I went with State Farm too, both Home and Auto. My agent is great, and they do not discriminate. I am with you on this completely. When I was shopping if they even asked about pets meant they would discriminate. And if you hide them and something happens? Cancel! then getting insurance from another broker is harder.

Luci's Mama said...

I am in the same boat as you...going to close next week (also a first time homebuyer)...I couldn't get insured through Geico, so I had to go through State Farm as well.

Congrats on your first home!

Liz said...

This is VERY valuable information. Thank you so much.

I agree with your decision. A very wise one.

One way around Insurance companies, may be DNA testing on your dog. "Pit Bull" is not a breed, and I know many people who have a "Pit Bull-type" dog, but none of those breeds showed up on the test. I am thinking of doing this for home rental/landlords.

I will definitely keep State Farm in mind. Einhorn insurance in California also offers FULL coverage for ALL breeds.

Rinalia said...

@DaisyDog: It really sets people up for failure and neglects to address the problem. Insurance agencies should care about how your dogs ACT, not what they look like. Dogs are not trampolines.

@Luci's Mama: Congratulations!! It's pretty exciting and stressful, isn't it?

@Liz: DNA tests are an interesting idea. There is none that include American Pit Bull Terriers (and that is what Mina is, most likely). There is one that includes American Staffordshire Terriers, I think, but Mina, for example, is not one (they generally don't come in the pink-nosed variety).

It's just sad that we even have to think about lying. It shouldn't be that way.

Nichole said...

I applaud you for your decision. We had the same issue - our homeowners insurance with State Farm was quite a bit more than other companies, but I chose to do business with them because they don't discriminate against breeds.

I will say that their claims service is top notch - you do get what you pay for. When our fence blew down last spring, we had a check in hand the next day. I used to work for GEICO and I can guarantee it wasn't like that :)