As the legislature eyes insurance reforms for the upcoming 83rd session, one of issues ripe for discussion is homeowners’ insurance form regulation.
Currently, insurers may offer a standard form or must receive approval by the Texas Department of Insurance for all alternate policy forms before usage. Due to the complex nature of insurance, a reasonable system for regulating forms is appropriate. Practically, lenders must be assured that their interests in a property will be protected without reviewing every policy in its specifics. Consumers can be assured that “fire” coverage, and the like, means basically the same protection in every policy no matter the insurer. And, insurance policies can be sold by agents rather than lawyers to consumers who do not need a law degree to understand the policy. However, such regulations should not be overly burdensome or deplete consumer choice.
Proposals to ease or streamline form regulation should be considered and a balance struck between consumer protection and practicality.
With Texas’ ever changing coastline, citizens amended the state Constitution to guarantee public access to the Gulf Coast beaches. However, a recent ruling by the Texas Supreme Court has muddied the waters. Gradual erosion causes natural shifts in the vegetation line, thus encroaching on private property of individuals. This anticipated movement has been addressed by “rolling” the public easement and providing funding to individuals to move their homes outside of the new easements created. Yet, what is to become of these easements when the entire coastline is changed due to a hurricane? Justice Dale Wainwright opined that when a dramatic shift in the vegetation line is cause by an act of nature, the easement no longer “rolls” but moves if the state can prove an easement was already in existence. Such an easement may be established by continuous use, but in this case the Republic of Texas gave ownership to private individuals of the West Galveston Island in 1840. Such situation of establishing an easement is an environment for a proliferation of litigation for decades to come.
Until next week,
Julie Drenner, Texas Director