Courthouse News Service (6/28/13) reports that OneWest Bank now faces a lawsuit for its use of force-placed insurance. The plaintiff, Geraldine Doyle, filed suit against a number of defendants, including OneWest Bank, IndyMac Bank, QBE Insurance Group and Assurant, alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment.
Doyle alleges that when her homeowners’ insurance lapsed, her premium skyrocketed from an annual rate of $384 to $2,754. Such premiums, lawsuits and regulators allege, hurt already struggling homeowners and can push them into default. Furthermore, homeowners say they are not given the option of finding cheaper insurance and the force-placed insurance companies have close ties to banks, resulting in high commissions that are not always reported to the borrower.
Assurant Inc has already faced allegations of wrongdoing in the courts. A 2012 class-action lawsuit filed by Joseph and Carol Cascio (claim number 2:12cv00514, US Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division of Columbus) was filed against JPMorgan Chase Bank and Assurant, alleging the defendants unlawfully forced homeowners to carry flood insurance on their properties that was greater than that required by law.
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Specifically, the plaintiffs argue that due to a FEMA-revised flood zone map, their home was placed in a Special Flood Hazard Area. Their neighbors were able to successfully appeal this classification, leading the plaintiffs to file an appeal as well. In the meantime, Chase placed a flood insurance policy on the property in the amount of $250,000, even though there was only $140,000 owing on the mortgage. In addition, Chase was reportedly given a commission of $875 for obtaining the force-placed insurance coverage.
In March 2013, Assurant agreed to pay a $14 million fine to settle allegations by the state of New York that the company overcharged homeowners who had its policies placed with them.