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Getting Mortgage Protection & Life Insurance in the COVID-19 Era (6 months in)

life insurance and COVID19

I remember when this shitshow started back in March.

Clients with certain health conditions couldn’t get cover so I put a note on their file to get back to them in 6 months time.

Surely by then, this would have all blown over.

Fast forward to present day and I’m getting in touch with those clients to sadly report:

“nothing has changed, let’s see where we are in 3 months time”

These unfortunate souls who have their mortgage approval in place, and now can’t buy a family home due to factors completely outside their control – an underlying health condition and COVID.

I keep telling them it’ll be fine, it’s just the timing that sucks, everything will be back to normal…eventually.

But will it?

Am I doing them a disservice?

It’s the hope that kills.

We’re all well aware of COVID-19 but why is it having such an effect on mortgage protection and life insurance applications?

Let’s see:

Why is COVID-19 affecting Life Insurance?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) can make anyone ill. But for some people, the risk is higher.

According to the HSE, there are 2 levels of higher risk:

  1. very high risk (also called extremely vulnerable)
  2. high risk

1. Very High Risk

If you fall into this category, then you’re going to struggle to get life insurance or mortgage protection.

  • are over 70 years of age with any underlying conditions
  • have had any type of transplant
  • have a history of advanced cancer
  • have kidney disease
  • have cystic fibrosis
  • have severe respiratory conditions (severe asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, lung fibrosis, interstitial lung disease and severe COPD
  • are HIV+
  • are taking medicine that makes you much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids or immunosuppression therapies)
  • have a serious heart condition
  • BMI >40

2. High Risk

Cover is available for people who fall into this group but it depends on the loading/premium increase that the insurer adds to your policy.

Let’s rewind to pre COVID times – hark back to those halcyon days, of hugs, high five’s and happily supping pints on an empty stomach.

Back then, if you had Type 1 Diabetes, for example, you might be looking at an increase in your premium of +175%.

Today, the increase would still be +175% but due to COVID-19, the insurers have pulled back on the risk they are willing to take.

Their underwriting guidelines for Diabetes or any High-Risk condition, they can’t offer cover if the increase will be higher than 150%. Some insurers are draconian and won’t offer cover if the expected loading will be over 100%.

Instead, they are postponing for 6 months / until COVID-19 settles down….whenever that might be

This is why it is so important to know the most sympathetic insurer for your condition. All the insurers are not taking the same approach.

Here’s a sample of High-Risk conditions (from the HSE website)

  • are over 60 years of age and has an underlying health issue
  • lung condition that’s not severe (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis)
  • heart disease (such as heart failure)
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • diabetes
  • chronic kidney disease
  • liver disease (such as hepatitis)
  • a medical condition that can affect your breathing
  • history of  cancer
  • weak immune system
  • cerebrovascular disease
  • autoimmune disorders
  • obesity

If you fall into any of the above categories, it’s going to be tricky to get life insurance or mortgage protection. The underwriting for both types of cover is identical.

What are the insurance companies doing to help Coronavirus patients?

Not much because they don’t see a problem.

Hear me out.

Insurance underwriting is data-driven. The underwriters have not seen a massive spike in the number of clients they are postponing so they don’t think it’s a big issue. What they’re failing to realise is that they are only seeing data from fully medically underwritten applications that they can postpone or decline after receiving a full application.

They can’t take account of the applications coming through the broker market where the broker is telling the client they won’t be able to get cover due to COVID-19. Every day, I’m crushing the dreams of clients with Type 1 Diabetes or who have a BMI of 40+ but the insurers are not seeing this. And if I’m telling clients not to apply, there are other brokers doing the same things. All this adds up to a lot of people who can’t get cover.

Can COVID-19 stop me getting a mortgage?

As you may know, mortgage protection is mandatory if you’re getting a mortgage. The banks insist on the security of knowing your loan will be cleared if you die. But there are some exceptions to this rule. I have highlighted the most relevant one for you if you can’t get mortgage protection.

Per the Irish Statute Book:

126.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, a mortgage lender shall arrange, through an insurer or an insurance intermediary, a life assurance policy providing, in the event of the death of a borrower before a housing loan made by the mortgage lender has been repaid, for payment of a sum equal to the amount of the principal estimated by the mortgage lender to be outstanding in the year in which the death occurs on the basis that payments have been made by the borrower in accordance with the mortgage, such sum to be employed in repayment of the principal.

(2) Subsection (1) shall apply as respects all housing loans except—

(a) where the house in respect of which the loan is made is, in the mortgage lender’s opinion, not intended for use as the principal residence of the borrower or of his dependants,

(b) loans to persons who belong to a class of persons which would not be acceptable to an insurer, or which would only be acceptable to an insurer at a premium significantly higher than that payable by borrowers generally,

(c) loans to persons who are over 50 years of age at the time the loan is approved,

(d) loans to persons who, at the time the loan is made, have otherwise arranged life assurance, providing for payment of a sum, in the event of death, of not less than the sum referred to in subsection (1).

If you’re unable to get mortgage protection, the bank may offer you a mortgage protection waiver.

What is a mortgage protection waiver?

This is a document you sign stating that you understand the consequences of not taking out mortgage protection i.e should you pass away, the mortgage repayments will have to be taken on in full by your partner. The waiver is offered at the discretion of the bank so you don’t qualify automatically if you can’t get mortgage protection. The bank will look at the repayment capacity of your partner, their job security, and the loan to value of the mortgage.

Sorry to all singletons out there but the banks rarely offer waivers to single applicants unless there is a guarantor.

Does an insurer have to offer me mortgage protection at some price?

No, which I think is grossly unfair especially if you’re trying to buy a family home and can’t do so due to COVID-19.

If you can’t get car insurance, there is an agreement in place between the insurers called The Declined Cases agreement where one insurer must offer a quote at some price.

Under the agreement, the insurance market will not refuse to provide insurance to an individual seeking insurance, if he/she has approached at least three insurers and has not been able to obtain cover from them. In general, the insurer first approached will be required to provide the individual with a quote. It is therefore important that the proposer keeps a careful note of the order in which he/she approached each of the three companies.

I brought this up with Brokers Ireland – our representative body who advised there is no “lender of last resort” for mortgage protection because:

The Insurer of last resort is in place because motor insurance is compulsory for everyone. Mortgage protection is not compulsory and lenders have the ability to waive the requirement if they wish. 

I’d like to see the insurance industry do the right thing and come up with a temporary solution which helps those who can’t get cover due to COVID-19. Hopefully, COVID-19 is temporary so really the insurers are only taking on the risk until normality returns and those clients can get cover.

But until then…

If you have been declined for mortgage protection and can’t buy a family home because of it, you have to cause a ruckus.

Call Joe Duffy.

Contact your local representative.

March the streets!

The revolution starts at dawn.

Failing that, a GoFundMe page seems to be the way to go.

Does COVID-19 affect life insurance for healthy people?

Thankfully no, if you’re in good health, it’s business as usual.

And even if you have a mild underlying health issue, on the assumption it’s not COVID-19 high-risk, then you’ve nothing to worry about.

Is COVID-19 delaying mortgage protection applications?

Yes, we have seen a marked delay in getting cover for clients.

Again, if you have no health issues, you have no worries, you’re looking at 3-5 days to get your cover.

However if the insurer requires a PMAR (medical report from your GP), you could be waiting up to 8 weeks depending on how efficient your GP is / how busy the surgery they work in is. September is traditionally the busiest time of the year for buying houses which have a knock-on effect at the surgeries. Of course, the backlog created by COVID-19 has created the perfect storm.

Backlog + stricter underwriting = huge demand on GPs who are already overworked due to COVID.

Seriously, if you intend to close before Christmas, and you have an underlying health issue that may require a GP report, it’s time to get those ducks in a row.

christmas clock

You might think I’m crazy but trust me, THE WORLD AND HIS WIFE want to be in their new home before Christmas. It gets busier than a queue at Krispy Kreme drive-thru. Be smart and avoid a stressful December by having your mortgage protection arranged well in advance.

Can you get life insurance if you have had Coronavirus symptoms?

If you have Covid-19 symptoms, have been advised to get tested or have been diagnosed with it, you will need to wait until full recovery before you can get cover.

Does life insurance payout if you die with COVID-19?

Yes, life insurance covers you for death due to COVID-19.

Does serious illness cover payout if you die with COVID-19?

No, COVID-19 is not currently classed as a critical illness. You cannot claim for an illness that is not specifically defined in your policy terms and conditions.

Does income protection payout if you cannot work due to COVID-19?

Yes, if you are unable to work for any reason for longer than your deferred period, you can make an income protection insurance claim.

Over to you

If you’re in any way concerned that your health (or the health of a partner) may affect your mortgage protection, please let me help you.

I’ll give it to you in plain English.

And it may not be the news you want to hear, but better to know now so you can prepare than have it sprung on you at the last minute.

Complete this short questionnaire and I’ll be right back.

If you’re lucky enough not to have any health issues but would like some help finding the best cover, I’d love to help, complete this questionnaire.

Thanks for reading this far – it was a long one but I feel it’s worth addressing the relevant questions coming at us thick and fast in relation to this dreaded new illness.

Nick | 05793 20836 | nick @ lion dot ie

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