Over the last several weeks, the Maryland Insurance Administration has been busy with the issuance of new Bulletins concerning various compliance reminders. These Bulletins indicate, in our view, that Commissioner K. Birrane takes regulatory compliance seriously, even as we continue with the pandemic of COVID-19.
We are today providing a summary of additional Bulletins that have been issued since our last newsletter.
As reported previously, by Bulletin 20-10, the Maryland Insurance Administration encouraged all property and casualty insurers to make “reasonable accommodations” to policyholders so that those impacted by the pandemic would not lose coverage due to the non-payment of a premium. Many insurers heeded this advisory and took steps to help policyholders. Some insurers voluntarily suspended non-payment cancellations, while others deferred billings. Some insurers have worked with policyholders to create payment plans. These voluntary actions were appreciated by the Maryland Insurance Administration.
Therefore, it was somewhat surprising to some carriers when the Administration issued Bulletin 20-28. This Bulletin, among other things, indicated that: (1) “an insurer may not cancel a current policy term as a result of a past due amount from a prior term”; and (2) “payments received from insureds that are in arrears should be applied to the current policy period before being applied to a prior term’s premium due.” Interestingly, no statutory or case law authority was specifically referenced for these payment pronouncements.
Bulletin 20-28 raises some practical and troublesome issues as to how insurers should handle non-payment issues. For example, how are insurers to handle an insured that habitually fails to pay its last monthly premium payment? Depending on the precise timing, the policy would have to be renewed and the debt placed into collection.
Insurers would be well advised to consider how this Bulletin impacts operational issues and whether legislative change is necessary to clarify when a policy may be cancelled for non-payment. In addition, underwriting guidelines should be reviewed to update non-payment and non-renewal issues. Payment due dates and/or monthly payment plans may need to be revised to deal with these types of issues.
Bulletin 20-31 reminds insurers and producers that beginning October 1, 2020, there is a change that relates to condominiums. On that date, a Condominium Association can hold an individual unit owner responsible for $10,000 (up from $5,000) when a loss originates within a unit.
It is important to note that the unit owner’s policy, typically a HO-6 policy form, generally provides liability insurance for amounts an insured is legally obligated to pay as a result of a covered loss.
As a result of this change, insurers should make sure that forms reflective of this new amount are included in policies for Condominium Associations and that claims are to be appropriately adjusted for losses occurring after October 1, 2020.
Bulletin 20-32 deals with what an insurer must do when implementing a moratorium plan. The Maryland Insurance Administration makes clear that a moratorium may not be triggered unless: (1) the National Weather Service issues a hurricane or tropical storm watch, warning or advisory; (2) a state of emergency is declared; (3) a curfew is imposed; or (4) earthquakes of a certain magnitude occur. The Bulletin contains additional information for moratoriums, including the filings that must be made and the relationship of the triggering event to the underwriting risk.
Towing and Roadside Service
Bulletin 20-33 reminds insurers of how changes to Section 27-501(d) impact cancellations and renewals. More specifically, insurers are advised that under these statutory changes, an insurer may not refuse to renew or terminate coverage as a result of claims made under the policy’s towing or emergency roadside coverage.
Importantly, the Administration informs insurers that presently use towing or emergency roadside service claims as part of its cancellation/non-renewal guidelines to take quick corrective action. Such insurers are required to “make a corrective rule filing with the Property & Casualty Rates and Forms Unit to be effective no later than October 1, 2020.”
In July, the Maryland Insurance Administration withdrew Bulletin 20-26, which concerned seller’s closing assistance and the required use of a specific title company. Instead, a draft of a recommended bulletin was posted. This draft bulletin can be reviewed on the Administration’s website. It provides, in essence, that “any contractual provisions purporting to require that insurance be purchased from a particular title company as a precondition for obtaining closing cost assistance is statutorily prohibited.” There is no indication as to when the new draft bulletin will go into effect.
In addition, by implementing Bulletin 20-29, the Administration has modified its on-site reviews of title insurance producers.
Due to recent “public safety emergencies” and the upcoming hurricane season, the Maryland Insurance Administration issued Bulletin 20-34, which was subsequently updated. This Bulletin deals with public adjusters, particularly with respect to licensing and contracting with policyholders. The required specifics of the contracts between insureds and public adjusters are discussed in detail. With the issuance of this Bulletin, insurers dealing with public adjusters on claims should be aware of the requirements of public adjuster contracts. Insurers that learn that a public adjuster is not in compliance with the stated requirements may need to determine what steps to take in response.
In addition, this Bulletin reminds public adjusters that they are to disburse settlement proceeds received on behalf of an insured within 15 business days after the date of the payment from an insurer.
We expect additional bulletins and information to be issued during the upcoming weeks.