Addresses, Corporate Changes, and Paying Attention to the Details

A few days ago, in the mail, I received a notice from my homeowners insurance company notifying me that they were cancelling my policy as of January 18 due to a lack of payment. I was shocked, to say the least.

Back when we first bought our home and arranged our mortgage, the mortgage company offered to set up an escrow account for us. Each month, we would pay a certain amount into that escrow account and, from that account, they would manage the homeowners insurance and the property taxes on our home. After running the numbers and realizing that this would actually save us a fair amount of effort, we signed up for this program.

Flash forward a year later. Our insurance company was purchased by a second insurance company. To us, this seemed like a mere formality. We received a new policy in the mail and similar information was sent to our mortgage company. We kept making our monthly mortgage payment like clockwork, keeping money in the coffers for our insurance.

Then, suddenly, out of the blue, a notice about policy cancellation due to a lack of a payment?

Naturally, I spent the next two hours on the phone tracking down the problem. The problem itself was incredibly simple. My mortgage company failed to convert the records on my escrow account to refer to the new insurance company. Thus, when they received solicitations for payment from the new mortgage company, they checked my records, discovered they did not match, and assumed that there was some sort of error (or perhaps some sort of nefarious activity).

Everything was resolved with three phone calls, however, and everything is in place with no loss of insurance on my home. However, I did learn a few things in the process.

First, when there is an address change of any sort, make sure you contact the relevant people. Yes, others may actually be responsible for this. Yes, they should have already been notified by someone else. But at the same time, people are human and make human choices and human mistakes, which is what the problem was here.

Be proactive. If one of the companies you do business with changes an account number or an address, consider it your responsibility to make sure it is changed everywhere it needs to be, regardless of whether or not it’s ultimately your responsibility. Taking care of it now – and making sure it’s done right – can save you a big headache later on.

Second, read all of your notices. Even though I’m supposedly on the “paperless” plan for several of my bills, I still receive oodles of statements and messages from these companies. Most of them are completely unimportant to me. They inform me of very minor things like changes in terms of service, new “offers” that I can’t live without, and newsletters with articles that don’t interest me.

After a while, it’s very easy to become numb to all of it. Don’t. Open every one, read it over, and handle it appropriately. Yes, most of them will go in the trash can. Yes, you’ll often feel like you just wasted fifteen minutes of your life.

But for every fifty useless missives that you read, one will be very important. This little notice looked like several others I’ve received from the same company and none of the others were important at all. Had I attacked it with glossy eyes, who knows what may have happened.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – don’t get irate with customer service representatives. Most of the time, the customer service folks you talk to on the phone have spent most of their day dealing with irate, rude people demanding various things of them, often over the top ridiculous things, and are treated rudely in the process. A little bit of honey goes a long way. Even if you’re upset and angry with the situation, remember that it’s not the fault of the person you’re talking to. Almost always, they’re trying to help you out to the best of their ability. Yes, it feels good to vent, but don’t vent at the person who is trying to help you.

Thankfully, everything is in order now, and I’ve learned a good lesson in being proactive.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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