Mutual Assurance Officers in photo dated 1960.
There are several myths and rumors about whom Mutual Assurance will cover that started many years ago and are still in circulation today. Here are some of the most common misconceptions - which have you heard before?
Mutual Assurance will insure only one house on each block.
False. We are happy to insure multiple homes on a block. As long as each dwelling meets our underwriting criteria. This includes, but is not limited to, distance from a municipal fire hydrant, no overhanging trees, railings on steps and decks, and other necessary safety considerations.
Mutual Assurance has never had this policy, even after some devastating fires that occurred in the 19th century that wiped out blocks of buildings insured by us.
Mutual Assurance insures only brick homes with slate roofs.
False. Mutual insures all types of homes, condos, and apartments throughout Virginia. As ever, each dwelling must meet our underwriting criteria and the construction of the home determines the initial policy premium, as well as annual assessments.
We will not insure homes with hot water heaters in the attic.
False. We will cover homes with hot water heaters on the upper floors, but with certain precautions. Hot water heaters have an average life expectancy of 10-12 years. So it isn’t a matter of if the unit will fail, but when. Units in attics are exposed to temperature extremes which can hasten their failure.
Our preference is that hot water heaters are located in garages, basements, or at worst, in first-floor utility rooms. We require a drip pan and outside drain line on every hot water heater, unless it is installed in an unfinished basement or garage. If a hot water heater is in the attic or anywhere else above a finished living area, we also require the installation of an automatic water supply shut-off valve.
Now you know why we are so high on water damage mitigation devices. They can save a lot of money and frustration for leaky hot water heaters, burst pipes, and even faucet drips.
Mutual Assurance will not accept homes with a sump pump.
False. Sump pumps used to be a no-go for a policy with us, but that has changed. We will cover homes with sump pumps but certain conditions must be in place, and there may be an added charge. It is worth checking with one of our advisors as any surcharges would be offset by the overall savings offered.
A Mutual Assurance policy is comprehensive and will cover anything that damages my home.
False. Don’t expect to be able to file a claim to help offset the costs of maintenance or the cost of damage caused by a perceived lack of maintenance. For example, Mutual Assurance policies won’t cover issues related to:
• Insect damage (including termites)
• Rodent damage
• Bird damage
I will pay little or nothing each year for coverage from Mutual Assurance.
True and False. Unlike other insurance companies, Mutual Assurance issues a perpetual homeowners policy. This is a policy without expiration. Both parties agree to keep the policy in force without an expiration date as long as the conditions of membership are satisfied (subject to the provisions of the policy and the Society’s bylaws). As an FYI, other insurance companies issue policies that usually expire after a year, and then both parties renew it.
With Mutual, at each policy “anniversary,” members are charged what we call an assessment. Set each year by the Board of Directors, these payments cover the ongoing costs of the Society and are based on a percentage of the policy premium. These assessments can be from 1% to 200% of the policy premium.
The Board looks at the following to determine the annual percentage amount:
• insurance income
• reinsurance costs
• loss and loss adjustment expenses
• underwriting expenses
• investment income and investment performance
As an example, a homeowner with an $1100 premium would pay $220 with a 20% assessment that year. If the assessment goes to 22% the next year and the premium stays the same, he would pay $242.
There is a minimum annual assessment of $125 to $350, depending on the policy.
By comparison to what you would be paying to a big box insurer, you may think an assessment of 22% is next to nothing. This is why we say “yes and no” to this myth.
If I move out of state, I can take my Mutual Assurance policy with me.
False! Mutual Assurance insures only homes in Virginia, and not all of Virginia at that. There are specific criteria that must be met in order to qualify for our coverage, and not all homes will qualify. That is for the protection of our members whose houses are in good shape, have no unnecessary risks, and are located in areas where a municipal water source and fire department are nearby.
If you have a policy with us and you move within the Commonwealth of Virginia, you can take our coverage with you, even if where you are moving is not a perfect fit, as long as we have agent representation there.
Our members are delighted when we tell them they can take their policies with them when they move instate.
Mutual Assurance offers only homeowners insurance.
False! We have always offered homeowners’ insurance, along with renters’ insurance, to current policyholders and their children. New this year, we are offering renters’ insurance to anyone that meets our basic requirements. You no longer need to be a primary policyholder or child of one.
We also offer rental dwelling insurance if we cover the policyholder’s primary home.
Condo insurance has also been in our portfolio since condos became a thing.
Mutual Assurance has optional coverages to accompany a home policy as well that you may not have heard about, such as Equipment Breakdown, Service Line Coverage, Earthquake Insurance, Scheduled Property(or personal property, like jewelry), and an Umbrella Policy that includes personal liability, and now UM/UIM coverage (uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist).