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Homeowners insurance quotes and CLUE and A-PLUS

You may want to believe insurers are hot competitors and never talk to each other. Except you would be wrong. There's a steady flow of information into two central databases. The bigger and more important is called CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) with the smaller competitor called A-PLUS (the Automated Property Loss Underwriting System run by Insurance Services Office Inc) which collect a broad range of information about you and how you relate to insurance companies. This is not just details of the claims you make. A range of factors are combined to produce an insurance score. This parallels the work done to create a credit score, and both scores are used by insurers to create a risk profile for you and set insurance rates. So, for example, both organizations record when you ask for clarification of your cover even though this does not result in a claim. It even records whether you are late in paying any of the premium installments. There's also a positive effort made to collect public information about you, e.g. whether you are involved in litigation, have judgments against you, are subject to foreclosure orders, and so on. If any of this information is incorrect, it could mean you are only offered cover at high rates or you are refused cover. Because of this, many states have passed laws to give you basic rights. You will usually find your local rights set out on the site run by your state's Insurance Commissioner.

The CLUE reports are sold by LexisNexis and provide information about all claims relating to your home or your vehicle. The key problem is that, if the score is very low, it could cause your home address to be blacklisted. While this might be an accurate assessment of your risk profile, it would do a significant injustice to anyone later buying your home. As an aside, all the information is stored for not less than five years so insurers use your history of claims to assess the risk you will file another.

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act is supposed to help you by requiring insurers to tell you when they share your information with anyone else, except CLUE reports are excluded from the Act. This brings us to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which does apply equally to credit and CLUE scoring. You have the right to ask LexisNexis and ISO Inc for one free copy of your insurance report every year. If you find any inaccuracies, you are entitled to have them corrected. If you feel the response of either LexisNexis or ISO Inc is unsatisfactory, you can insist a note is included in your file explaining your views. Unfortunately, you have no right to opt out of this sharing arrangement. Your insurers are entitled to continue sharing this information.

To protect yourself from higher homeowners quotes, you should routinely ask for a copy of your CLUE reports once a year. You also have a right to a free report if the insurer makes an "adverse decision" based on a CLUE report. The FCRA is there to protect your interests and, since homeowners insurance rates can rise rapidly and without explanation, you should always find out what your insurance score is.

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