The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) expects insurers to consider the severity and unprecedented nature of the February 11-19, 2021, weather event when adjusting claims for frozen pipes and communicating with policyholders.
Reasonable care provisions
Homeowners, renters, and other property policies may include provisions that loss caused by freezing is covered if the policyholder took reasonable care to maintain heat or shut off the water supply and drain pipes. A determination as to whether a policyholder took reasonable actions to prevent a loss must be based on the unique circumstances of the claim.
Several factors may have prevented policyholders from maintaining heat or shutting off water. TDI encourages insurers to consider factors that affected policyholders, including:
- The frequency and length of power outages prevented many policyholders from maintaining heat in their homes and other covered properties. This was beyond the control of policyholders.
- Policyholders may have been told that power outages would be short and intermittent, making it less likely for policyholders to believe shutting off water was necessary.
- Renters may not have access to water mains or have any control over the power or water supplies to their unit.
- Differing advice from a variety of sources may have created confusion on best practices for caring for pipes during freezing weather.
- Icy conditions may have created a risk of injury to shut off the water or limited access to the water main.
Insurance Code Section 541.060 prohibits unfair claim settlement practices. These include "failing to attempt in good faith to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement" of a claim once liability on the claim becomes reasonably clear. TDI may pursue enforcement action against an insurer that fails to comply.
Denial of losses
When communicating with policyholders about losses not covered by their policies, TDI encourages insurers to provide information about the availability of federal assistance. Information provided to policyholders should include the FEMA application website, disasterassistance.gov, and FEMA Disaster Assistance Helpline at 800-621-3362.For questions about this bulletin, contact the Property and Casualty Lines Office at PropertyCasualty@tdi.texas.gov.