Can my homeowners insurance threaten to cancel coverage unless my house is painted?
After a home inspection of our house in Middlesex County, MA by the insurance company, they told us we had to paint the house. Now I don't understand what in the world painting a house has to do with insurance, but they won't cover us unless it's done. First off, painting the house shouldn't affect anything except it's appearance. Secondly, they are trying to force us into a major expense just to keep our insurance. What choice do we have here? We're basically being blackmailed.
You are completely right to be questioning the demand made upon you by the insurance company. I am not aware of any basis that an insurance company can force you to paint your home, unless there is some kind of zoning laws or common property ownership requirement in the community that you must comply with to obtain insurance. This is absurd. I suggest that you contact a lawyer to find out the basis that the insurance company is requesting that you paint the house. You should also shop around and find out if there are other insurance companies out there that will insure you without having to paint the home. A lawyer will be able to look at the policy being offered to you to let you know whether there is a basis for the request and you may be able to find another insurer out there to help you.
You're not being blackmailed; as a general matter, insurers may put conditions on providing coverage, and if you don't like their conditions, you can look for other coverage. In point of fact, it is probably perfectly reasonable to require that a house be painted, if the paint is older or peeling (or if the home is unpainted at present)--paint helps protect the surface underneath from the elements, such as from rain or moisture-caused rot. (That's why bridges are painted, for example--not for looks but to protect them from corrosion.)
It's not impossible your insurer does not want your business and is looking for a way to encourage you to go elsewhere for coverage; however, other than that, there is no benefit to the insurer from you painting your house--it's not like you're hiring them to do this. They are very likely requring it to help protect the physical structure of your home, which does reduce the likelihood of a claim. You certainly could ask them "why" they are requring it, but I strongly suspect it's for the reason stated.
As J.M.A. stated, if there is a policy currently in force, you can check the terms of the policy and if there is no authority or grounds in the policy for them to require this or cancel, they cannot--while the policy is in force, the insurer is bound by its terms. However, they may make new terms or requirements for renewal.
If this is mid-term, or while a policy is in force, you should also ask your insurer to point to the terms or conditions in the policy that they believe gives them to right to require painting.
And, of course, you can contact other insurers to see if they will cover your home, and for how much.