Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies include additional living expenses (ALE) coverage. ALE pays the costs of living away from home—above and beyond your customary expenses— if you cannot live at home due to damage caused by an insured event that makes the home temporarily uninhabitable.
What expenses are typically covered by ALE?
ALE covers living expenses incurred by you so your household can maintain its normal standard of living. These expenses could include:
Grocery or restaurant bills
Transportation (e.g., if your temporary home requires a longer commute)
Your homeowners policy’s ALE coverage is usually equal to 20 percent of your home’s insured value—a home insured for $200,000, for instance, may have ALE coverage of up to $40,000—or limited to a certain timeframe (e.g., no more than 12 months).
What about Damage from Hurricane Ida?
Standard ALE coverage should be triggered if damage from a covered peril (e.g., wind and rain) caused the home to be uninhabitable. In addition, some companies provide ALE coverage when policyholders leave their home or apartment due to mandatory evacuation orders. Policyholders should speak with their insurance professional to confirm whether their policy provides ALE coverage for their situation.
As a reminder, standard homeowners insurance policies typically do not provide coverage for flood damage. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) covers physical damage from flood but does not include ALE. Some privately sold flood policies offer ALE following flood losses.
What Other Help Is Available?
Federal assistance has been made available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). On September 2, FEMA announced they will cover hotel expenses for survivors of Hurricane Ida with damaged homes or dwellings in 25 parishes in southeast Louisiana.
The program, known as Transitional Sheltering Assistance, will provide survivors with short-term housing free-of-charge as they recover from the Category 4 storm. Survivors must first register with FEMA at disasterassistance.gov or by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362. Those wishing to take advantage of the program must find and book their own hotel rooms. Participating hotels are listed at www.femaevachotels.com.
Before Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism coverage was included in most commercial property policies as a “silent” peril – not specifically excluded, therefore covered. Afterward, insurers began excluding terrorist acts from policies, and the U.S. government established the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) to stabilize the market.
TRIA requires insurers to make terrorism coverage available to commercial policyholders but doesn’t require policyholders to buy it. Originally created as three-year program allowing the federal government to share losses due to terrorist attacks with insurers, it has been renewed four times: in 2005, 2007, 2015, and 2019.
“The cyber landscape to me looks a lot like the counterterrorism landscape did before 9/11,” historian and journalist Garrett Graff said during a recent Homeland Security Committee event at which scholars and former 9/11 Commission members urged lawmakers to increase funding for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and other federal agencies focused on preventing attacks.
Cyber is more complicated, said Amy Zegart, co-director of Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, due to the private sector’s role “as both a victim and a threat vector. There are more people in the U.S. protecting our national parks than there are in CISA protecting our critical infrastructure.” Cyberattacks like the one on the Colonial Pipeline underscore this reality.
When TRIA was reauthorized in 2019, a crucial component was the mandate for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to make recommendations to Congress on amending the act to address cyberthreats. The trillion-dollar infrastructure bill now being considered in Congress proposes $1.9 billion for cybersecurity, with more than half set aside for state, local, and tribal governments. It would establish a Cyber Response and Recovery Fund for use by CISA.
Like terrorism before 9/11, much cyber risk remains silent. Silent cyber – also called “non-affirmative cyber” – refers to potential losses stemming from policies not designed to cover cyber-related hazards. If silent cyber isn’t addressed, insurer solvency could be affected, ultimately hurting policyholders.
The United Kingdom’s Prudential Regulation Authority in 2019 sent a letter to all U.K. insurers saying they must have “action plans to reduce the unintended exposure” to non-affirmative cyber. Later that year, Lloyd’s issued a bulletin mandating clarity on all policies as to whether cyber risk is covered. This led many insurers to exclude cyber or include it and price the risk accordingly.
“Other regulators and the rating agencies have been less vocal about the issue” writes Willis Towers Watson, “and, until recently, efforts to address silent cyber have been limited.” Some insurers – most notably in the specialty mutual sector – updated their policies in the mid-2010s to provide clarity on cyber. But, until recently, movement elsewhere has been sporadic, Willis writes.
The recent proliferation of ransomware attacks leading to business interruption has led to cyber insurance – which began as a diversifying, secondary line – becoming a primary insurance-purchasing consideration. Unfortunately, while policies are available, many policyholders still incorrectly expect to be covered under their property and liability policies. Confusion around cyber coverage can lead to unexpected gaps.
“In a best-case scenario, a cyber incident may trigger coverage under multiple policies and increase the available total limit to respond to a covered event,” said Adam Lantrip, CAC Specialty’s cyber practice leader. “In a more common scenario, multiple policies may be triggered but not coordinate with one another, and the policyholder spends more on legal fees than the cost of having purchased standalone cyber insurance in the first place.”
Cyber risk will only grow in significance, complexity, and cost as the world becomes more wired and interdependent. The costs of cyberattacks are potentially massive and need to be mitigated in advance.
The Insurance Information Institute is working with insurers in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida to monitor property damages and assist consumers as they recover. In this video, Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan provides guidance for homeowners to help them ensure a smooth claims experience and avoid being taken advantage of by unethical contractors and other scammers who tend to emerge after disasters.
“Right now, the most important thing those impacted by Ida can do is remain safe and stay out of the way out of recovery workers,” Kevelighan says. “The storm may have passed, but remember that new dangers may be lurking.”
In particular, he points to threats from downed electrical wires and washed-out roads and bridges. Kevelighan also emphasizes the importance of quickly reporting property damage to your insurer.
Hurricane Ida is forecast to hit the Northern Gulf Coast this weekend as a major hurricane. Residents from the Upper Texas Coast to the Florida Panhandle are warned to prepare for impact. In this video, Triple-I’s Mark Friedlander provides detailed guidance for preparation.
Bermuda is more than pink beaches and golden sunsets – it’s a major force in the re/insurance industry. The Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers (ABIR) works to raise the profile of Bermuda’s reinsurers and insurers and represents their public policy interests around the world.
ABIR CEO John Huff recently sat down with Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan to discuss the contribution of Bermuda companies to global resiliency. Some of those contributions include:
Bermuda insurers and reinsurers paid $2.7 billion in claims from last winter’s storms in Texas.
Some Bermuda companies are preparing to step up and help fund new U.S. infrastructure projects through their investment portfolios.
According to the Bermuda Monetary Authority, the island nation is home to 1,200 (re)insurers holding more than $980 billion total assets and writing gross premium of approximately $240 billion.
Huff is excited about the role the re/insurance industry is playing in securing a more resilient future for society.
“If you talk to your kids, this may be the first time our work is resonating with the next generation,” he says. “I do think it’s our opportunity to lead in the area of climate, resilience and adaptation.”
In discussing the Bermuda value proposition, Huff noted the concentration of exceptional talent within a square mile of Hamilton’s business district, which has captured the attention of investors who have plowed capital into the jurisdiction to form startup companies. Huff also said many established companies in Bermuda are scaling up by expanding their capabilities to take on more risk through analytics, underwriting and capital allocation.
Indeed, Bermuda is full of surprises. Huff said the general public doen’t realize that Bermuda companies underwrite half of the mortgage insurance sold in the US, creating opportunities for more young families to purchase their first home.
By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I
Property/casualty insurers are projected to have less-than-stellar underwriting profits in 2021, according to a forecast released today by the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) and risk-management firm Milliman.
The forecast – presented in a members-only webinar,“Triple-I /Milliman Underwriting Projections: A Forward View,” moderated by Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan – projects a 2021 combined ratio of 99.6. Combined ratio is the percentage of each premium dollar an insurer spends on claims and expenses.
The industry ended 2020 profitably, with a combined ratio of 98.7. Combined ratios for 2022 and 2023 are projected to be 98.9 and 99.3, respectively.
Losses from atypical weather events in the first quarter – particularly, the Texas freeze – got the year off to a rough start, explained Dave Moore of Moore Actuarial Consulting.
Natural catastrophe losses at a decade high
“Insured losses from natural disasters worldwide hit a 10-year high of $42 billion in the first half of 2021, with the biggest loss related to extreme cold in the United States in February,” Moore said, citing Aon statistics. “Overall, catastrophe loss estimates are in the $15 billion to $20 billion range for the Texas freeze event, and the rest of the year doesn’t look promising for CAT losses overall. Extreme weather this spring brought multi-billion-dollar thunderstorm and hail losses, and the extreme drought in the West has helped fuel another severe wildfire season.”
Jason B. Kurtz, FCAS, MAAA, a principal and consulting actuary at Milliman – an independent risk-management, benefits, and technology firm – said the current hard insurance market will persist, particularly in lines that have been hit hard by social inflation. A hard market is defined as a period of increasing premiums and decreasing insurance capacity.
Premium growth for the industry is projected to hit 7 percent in 2021. Growth is expected to slow in 2022 and 2023 but will remain above 5 percent both years.
“Lines like commercial auto, commercial multiperil, and general liability will still struggle to get their combined ratios under 100,” he said. “With ransomware attacks on the rise and tightening capacity, cyber bears watching, and homeowners insurers will have another tough year in 2021, but we predict improvement for 2022 and 2023.”
Michel Léonard, PhD, CBE, vice president, senior economist, and head of Triple-I’s Economics and Analytics Department, took a preliminary look at property/casualty industry results for 2021 and trends for the rest of the year. He noted that insurance outperformed the overall economy in 2019 and 2020 but was not likely to do as well in 2021.
“Right now, economists seem to be shifting growth from 2022 to 2021. That’s not good for insurance because of our industry’s business cycles. Shifting this growth means we are not expected to outperform the wider economy in 2021– but we are in 2022. What’s best for our industry is growth increasing, not decreasing, from 2021 to 2022.”
Regarding wildfire season, Roy Wright, president and CEO of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), noted that as the climate changes and the population expands into the wildland urban interface, wildfires are intersecting suburban life. Wildfire losses continue to mount year after year and make clear the need for communities to adapt, he said.
Commercial auto insurance has been hit harder by litigation trends than any other line of business, according to David Corum, vice president at the Insurance Research Council (IRC).
“We estimate broadly that social inflation increased commercial auto liability claims by more than $8 billion between 2010 and 2019,” Corum said. “We are also seeing evidence that social inflation is becoming a factor in personal auto claims.” He noted that a soon-to-be-released paper by the Triple-I, Moore Actuarial Consulting, and the Casualty Actuarial Society will address this topic more broadly.
Pat Sullivan, senior editor and conference co-chair at Risk Information Inc., explained that commercial auto insurers spent the last few years trying to price themselves into profitability with little success.
Sullivan noted that COVID-19 wasn’t great for growth: “Commercial auto direct written premiums rose about one percent in 2020, compared to 12 percent in 2019, 13 percent in 2018, and 9 percent in 2017. Commercial auto’s underlying claims issues haven’t gone away.”
COVID-19 and business interruption
The past 15 months have been extraordinary from a legal perspective on COVID-19 business interruption claims, according to Michael Menapace, partner, Wiggin and Dana LLP and Triple-I Non-Resident Scholar.
“To date, 80 percent of the judicial decisions have dismissed policyholders’ claims without regard to whether the presence of SARS-CoV-2 or the government shutdown orders were the cause of their losses, Menapace said. That dismissal rate goes up to 95 percent when the policies also include a virus exclusion.”
“There have been some outlier business interruption decisions in favor of policyholders and some less favorable jurisdictions for insurers that we are watching,” he said. “Insurers must also remain vigilant by pushing back against proposals by state legislatures or executive agencies that would change the terms of insurance contracts to provide coverage where none was intended and for which no premium was paid.”
Looking forward, Menapace said the trend of dismissals in the trial courts should continue.
“There has been only one appellate court decision concerning business interruption coverage,” he said. “But, over the next 12-18 months, the focus will start shifting to state and federal appellate courts, which will have the final say on many of these issues.”
Atlantic hurricane season
Dr Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University and Triple-I Non-Resident Scholar, gave his updated projections for the 2021 hurricane season.
Klotzbach noted that 2021 is expected to have an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, with 18 named storms, eight of which will become hurricanes. Of those eight, four will likely become major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5 with winds of a 111 mph or greater). That compares with the long-term average of about 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
The formation of nine large wildfires this week—three in Washington, two in California and Oregon, and one each in Idaho and Montana—highlight the importance of having an evacuation plan and the right coverage.
“Insurers are fulfilling their traditional role as the nation’s financial first responders as thousands of Americans evacuate in the West,” said Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan. “Wildfires are actively burning millions of acres, and as we are seeing these regions becoming more populated, it will be critical to focus on rebuilding communities in a more resilient manner, as well as make changes to public policies that are hindering the ability to clean and remove tinder which are fueling the devastation.”
Triple-I’s Resilience Accelerator demonstrates the power of insurance as a force for resilience. It does so by telling the story of how insurance coverage helps governments, businesses, and individuals recover faster and more completely after catastrophes. The Resilience Accelerator also links to HazardHub, an organization that assesses the wildfire risks individual properties face nationwide.
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reported yesterday that 1.95 million acres have burned in the U.S. during 2021. California’s Antelope, Dixie, McFarland, and Monument Fires grew by thousands of acres over the past few days, the NIFC added.
Oregon’s Bootleg fire, which has been burning along the Oregon and California border since July 6, continues to challenge firefighters while new blazes emerge.
“We are running firefighting operations through the day and all through the night,” said Joe Hessel, incident commander. “We are looking at sustained battle for the foreseeable future.”
A standard homeowners insurance policy covers wildfire-caused property damage to a home’s structure and its outbuildings (e.g., garage), as well as the personal belongings housed on the premises. A renter’s insurance policy covers the renter’s personal belongings. If a residence has been rendered temporarily uninhabitable by a wildfire, standard homeowners and renters insurance policies provide additional living expenses (ALE).
Triple-I offers the following tips to those who live in a wildfire-prone community.
Have an evacuation plan
Check with your insurer to see if you’re eligible to collect ALE. Some states allow ALE claims to be filed in the event of mandatory evacuations. Be sure to save hotel and restaurant receipts
File a claim with your insurer as soon as you are aware of damages to your property
Take photos of damage prior to making repairs
When making either temporary or permanent repairs, save receipts to give to your insurance claim adjuster
Only use licensed contractors to make repairs and beware of contractor fraud
Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane researchers have slightly reduced their forecast for 2021 Atlantic hurricane activity in an August 5 update.
The CSU Tropical Meteorology Project team, led by Triple-I non-resident scholar Dr. Phil Klotzbach, predicts 18 named storms this year (down from 20 in the previous forecast), eight of which are expected to become hurricanes (down from nine). Four of the hurricanes are expected to be “major” (Category 3, 4, or 5).
Despite the slight drop in the number of storms, the 2021 hurricane season – which runs from June 1 to November 30 — is forecast to be above average and follows a record-breaking 2020 season. An average season has 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
Insurance is essential for individuals, businesses, and communities to recover quickly from natural catastrophes – but perils have evolved to a point at which risk transfer, though necessary, isn’t enough to ensure resilience.
Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan said during a that better insured communities recover more quickly but “the long-term resilience of both the communities impacted by natural catastrophes and of the industry itself depend on preparedness and improved risk mitigation.” He was one of three panelists participating in the webinar.
“Something’s Got to Give”
Insured U.S. natural catastrophe losses totaled $67 billion in 2020 after an Atlantic hurricane season which included 30 named storms, record-setting wildfires in California, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest, and a severe derecho in Iowa. This year’s hurricane season looks to be more severe; the Bootleg wildfire in Oregon – so large and intense it has begun to create its own weather and is affecting air quality as far east as New York City – isn’t expected to be fully contained until late November; and these disasters are taking place on the heels of devastating winter storms in the first quarter.
As Kevelighan put it in his panel remarks, pointing to a 700 percent increase in insurer loss costs since the 1980s, “Something’s got to give.”
“As the country’s financial first responders,” he said, “insurers are not just responsible for providing relief to the communities affected by natural disasters, but also planning for potential catastrophes to come.”
One of the ways insurers do this, he said, is by building the industry’s cumulative policyholders’ surplus—the amount of money remaining after insurers’ collective liabilities are subtracted from their assets. At year-end 2020, the U.S. policyholders’ surplus stood at a record-high $914.3 billion.
Mitigate and educate
The role of the insurance industry has grown beyond merely taking on risks to educating the public, regulators, and corporate decision makers on the changing nature of risk and driving a resilience mindset characterized by a focus on pre-emptive mitigation and rapid recovery. Triple-I and a host of other insurance industry organizations have played a key role in promoting public-private partnerships and using advanced data and analytics to understand and address hazards in advance.
For example, Triple-I’s online Resilience Accelerator provides access to data and risk maps that empowers the public to assess and prepare for risks specific to their own communities.