Mortgages and deeds of trust require homeowners to maintain adequate insurance on the property so that the lender’s interest is protected in case of fire or other casualty. If you let this hazard insurance coverage lapse, the loan servicer can obtain insurance coverage at your expense. This type of insurance is called force-placed or lender-placed insurance. The servicer may then charge you for the cost of the force-placed insurance.
The following are a few examples of when a loan servicer might force-place insurance on a homeowner’s property:
Force-placed insurance is usually expensive, which can hinder a borrower who is already having difficulty making his or her monthly payment from bringing the loan current. (The servicer typically increases the borrower's monthly payment to cover the cost of the insurance.) Sometimes, at-risk homeowners go into foreclosure when they can't get caught up on the amounts owed. (If you are having trouble making your mortgage payments, there are workout options available to help you avoid foreclosure.)
Force-placed insurance usually provides less coverage than a homeowners policy because it covers different risks than a typical homeowners policy. For example, a force-placed hazard insurance policy usually will not provide coverage for the borrower’s personal property, like clothing or household items. Force-placed insurance also does not provide liability coverage for instances where the homeowner is responsible for damage or injuries to others.
Federal law requires a loan servicer to send notice to the homeowner before it orders force-placed insurance. The notice must inform the homeowner that, among other things:
The loan servicer must also send a second written notice to the homeowner at least 30 days after mailing the first notice. If the homeowner does not provide proof of insurance coverage within 15 days after the second notice, the servicer can force-place insurance coverage.
If the loan servicer receives evidence of coverage, the servicer has to cancel the force-placed coverage and refund any duplicate coverage costs.
Servicers sometimes improperly buy force-placed insurance for a borrower’s home even when the borrower already has an insurance policy in effect. If your servicer wrongfully buys force-placed insurance for your home, you may send the servicer what’s called a “notice of error.” Under federal law, if you send your servicer a notice of error—basically, a letter—letting the servicer know that it made a mistake on your account, the servicer must fix the mistake within a specific time period. (Learn more about how to resolve common servicer errors.)
If you send your servicer a notice of error, but the servicer doesn’t respond—or if you're facing an imminent foreclosure—consider talking to an attorney. (If your loan servicer force-placed insurance coverage while you already had other coverage in place, and has since started a foreclosure action, you may want to challenge the duplicate charges in the foreclosure. Learn more in Challenging Late & Other Fees in Foreclosure.)
You may also lodge a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB will send your complaint to the servicer and try to get a response, normally within 15 days.