It's always best to buy insurance from companies licensed to sell insurance in Texas. The Texas Department of Insurance reviews licensed companies to ensure that they meet the state's requirements and will have enough money to pay claims. Licensed companies are also required to contribute to the state guaranty fund that pays for losses when companies become insolvent or unable to pay claims. But there are times when a licensed insurance company isn't available or willing to sell you a policy. For instance, you might have an art collection that's too costly for most companies to cover, or you might not meet a company's underwriting guidelines.
Texas law allows some companies to insure risks that companies in the standard market aren't able or willing to insure. These companies are called "surplus lines" insurance companies.
TDI doesn't regulate surplus lines companies. To be legally eligible to sell insurance in Texas, a surplus lines company must be licensed in its home state or country and must register with TDI.
Agents must try to find a Texas-licensed company to sell you a policy before they sell you a policy with a surplus lines insurance company. If you're not satisfied with an agent's search, consider using another agent to try to find a Texas-licensed company.
Surplus lines companies don't participate in the Texas Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association. The guaranty association pays claims for member companies that become insolvent. This means that, if the surplus lines company becomes insolvent, your claims with the company could go unpaid.
Beware of Unauthorized Insurers
An unauthorized insurer is a company that is not legally licensed, eligible, or registered to sell insurance in Texas. Unauthorized insurance companies might say they're licensed in another country and are surplus lines companies.
Before you buy a surplus lines policy, check that the company is an eligible surplus lines company. You can check a surplus lines insurance company's eligibility by calling TDI's toll-free Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439. You can also use the Company Lookup and Agent Lookup features on our website at www.tdi.texas.gov .
Types of Surplus Lines Insurance
Most surplus lines insurance policies are property and casualty policies. These include general liability, fire, and mobile home policies, as well as coverage for special events, oil and gas refineries, and hazardous material transportation.
Surplus lines insurance companies generally don't sell life and health policies.
Surplus lines companies can't write workers' compensation insurance. State law requires companies selling workers' compensation insurance to be licensed in Texas. If an employer buys insurance to cover its employees' injuries from a surplus lines company or an unauthorized company, the employer loses immunity from lawsuits arising from workplace injuries. The employer also loses some key legal defenses, such as employee negligence.
Surplus lines companies may not sell personal auto liability policies. If a standard insurance company won't sell you a liability policy, the only other option is to buy a liability policy through the, Texas Automobile Insurance Plan Association (TAIPA). For more information about TAIPA. call 1-800-580-TAIPA (8247) or 512-444-4441 in Austin. You can also visit them online at www.taipa.org .
Regulation of Surplus Lines Insurance Companies
Surplus lines companies' rates and policy forms aren't subject to TDI review or to most Texas insurance laws. TDI does have limited oversight of the surplus lines market by
- licensing and regulating
surplus lines agents
- determining whether surplus lines companies are legally eligible to do business in Texas
- maintaining a list of eligible surplus lines companies.
Surplus lines companies must be licensed in their home state or country and must comply with those jurisdictions' requirements, including periodic audits. Surplus lines companies are also subject to lawsuit in Texas, and their contracts are subject to the same rules of interpretation as other contracts.
Surplus lines insurance companies must have at least $15 million in combined capital and surplus to be eligible to do business in Texas. (Capital and surplus are a company's financial cushion against unexpected claims.) An insurance company based in a foreign country must be vetted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioner's (NAIC) International Insurance Department. They must have a minimum of $45 million in capital and surplus and hold an amount in trust.
Surplus lines agents can only sell you a policy with an insurance company that meets Texas' financial requirements. Texas law requires surplus lines agents to try to determine a surplus lines insurance company's financial condition before placing your coverage.
Required Notice on Policies
Texas law requires agents to list their names and addresses on surplus lines policies they sell. Agents must also include a statement that the insurance company isn't licensed in Texas and that the policy is a surplus lines policy. It must also disclose that TDI doesn't audit the insurance company's financial solvency and that the insurance company isn't a member of the guaranty association.
The Surplus Lines Stamping Office of Texas
The Surplus Lines Stamping Office of Texas (SLSOT) is a nonprofit association that helps TDI oversee the surplus lines market.
Surplus lines agents must send SLSOT a copy of each surplus lines insurance policy they sell. The stamping office then reviews each policy to make sure it was properly placed with an eligible surplus lines company instead of a Texas-licensed company.
Surplus lines insurance companies must submit annual financial statements to NAIC. A company can lose its eligibility if it falls below Texas financial standards, but very few surplus lines companies have lost eligibility for financial reasons. For more information, call SLSOT at 1-800-449-6394 or 512-346-3274 in Austin or visit its website at www.slsot.org .
For More Information or Assistance
For answers to general insurance questions, for information about filing an insurance-related complaint, or to report suspected insurance fraud, call the Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Central time, Monday-Friday, or visit our website at www.tdi.texas.gov .
You can also visit HelpInsure.com to help you shop for automobile, homeowners, condo, and renters insurance, and TexasHealthOptions.com to learn more about health care coverage and your options.
For printed copies of consumer publications, call the 24-hour Publications Order Line at 1-800-599-SHOP (7467).
To report suspected arson or suspicious activity involving fires, call the State Fire Marshal's 24-hour Arson Hotline at 1-877-4FIRE45 (434-7345).
The information in this publication is current as of the revision date. Changes in laws and agency administrative rules made after the revision date may affect the content. View current information on our website. TDI distributes this publication for educational purposes only. This publication is not an endorsement by TDI of any service, product, or company.
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Last updated: 09/08/2014