How to file a claim if your insurance policy is canceled because of drone footage

MALDEN, Mass. — It was during the second week of April when a Billerica homeowner, who asked to be identified only as “J”, received a letter from her longtime insurer.

In her words, that letter contained “this very grainy black and white photo. That could be our house, but you can’t really tell.” The letter provided more information about that photo.

“They had taken aerial surveillance of our property and had determined that we had branches overhanging our roof, and they supplied us the photo. They also said they could not determine the condition of our roof.”

J carried homeowner’s insurance through the same insurer for more than 30 years. Her story is similar to that of a Malden homeowner Boston 25′s Catherine Parrotta interviewed earlier in May.

In both cases, the problems mentioned by the insurers had never been noted before. And like the Malden homeowner, J says she got to work immediately. In her case, she had eight trees cut within a matter of weeks.

She also obtained pictures of her roof. She documented everything with invoices. J’s insurer told her she’d have through June to take care of the problems they noted. But a month after she received the insurer’s first letter, she says she got a second letter. That time, it was a notice of cancellation.

“The cost of doing business for the insurance companies [is] going up. So they’re being a lot stricter on their guidelines and what they’re willing to write as well. That has a lot to do with the normal economy, has to do with the catastrophic losses. It has to do with the cost of repairs to homes and vehicles these days.”

John Bachmann is the Vice President of Client Relations with Norwood Insurance. He says having your policy not renewed or canceled could cost you. “If you get in front of this before the cancellation, that’s a good thing. Then that cancellation isn’t on record. If you do get canceled, many other companies may not want to write you, and you may have to go to the Mass fair plan, which might be a little more expensive.”

A spokesperson with the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation tells Boston 25 that insurers do have the right to general information about the properties they’re insuring, and it is possible that insurers are not renewing policies for issues that didn’t trigger policy non-renewals in the past.

Bachmann says if you get one of those notices, your insurance agent should be your first call.

“Contact the agent as soon as possible. Because time is of the essence because there is a time frame of when they put you on notice of when it will be canceled and you still have that time frame to work on in possibly getting the policy back into effect.”

J is still hoping her agent will be able to get her policy reinstated. She urges all homeowners to take stock of their properties and take care of anything that looks concerning.

The Massachusetts Division of Insurance tells Boston 25′s Catherine Parrotta that there are guidelines in place for the use of technology by insurers, and while insurers can use aerial images to gather information about the property they’re insuring, they can’t use those images to gather information about you or your family and base policy decisions off that information.

If you believe a policy decision was made unfairly, you can file a complaint with the Massachusetts Division of Insurance using this link here.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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