415.493.2500

Now You Know! BlogTM


Knob and Tube Wiring = No Homeowners Insurance

Knob and Tube wiring was installed in homes up until about 1950. There are a few instances of homes built in the 1960’s and 1970’s with this wiring, but these are the exception. It is now nearly impossible to obtain homeowners insurance if a home has knob and tube wiring. The insurance companies understand the […]



Knob and Tube wiring was installed in homes up until about 1950. There are a few instances of homes built in the 1960’s and 1970’s with this wiring, but these are the exception.

It is now nearly impossible to obtain homeowners insurance if a home has knob and tube wiring. The insurance companies understand the increased risk of fire and the potential for injury or death, based on the limitations of knob and tube wiring.

These limitations are:

  • It is not a grounded system, making it more hazardous than modern wiring. A person may come in contact with water, such as in a kitchen, bathroom, basement, crawlspace or outdoors and electricity and water don’t mix.
  • Two-prong receptacles as opposed to three-pronged. This eliminates the use of many appliances, even small kitchen appliances.
  • Usually restricted to a maximum of 60 amp service. Over the years, homeowners put in higher-rated fuses to increase amps. Given the wire was not intended to carry this additional current, the insulation becomes brittle exposing more wiring or overheating to the point of causing a fire.

Insurers have been updating their guidelines over the years in regards to the type and age of electricity in a home. It used to be that “if” a home was on circuit breakers and not fuses that a preferred insurer would accept knob and tube wiring. More recently, preferred insurers changed their guidelines to say “we don’t care if you have circuit breakers, we don’t want a home with knob and tube wiring”.

This meant that homeowners (those obtaining a new policy either because they were non renewed by their insurance company, had let a policy cancel, were buying insurance for the first time for a house purchase or whatever) were forced to buy insurance from a non preferred company (these are called surplus lines) who charge a significantly higher premium (often 3x’s as much). Lenders accept these policies.

Initially almost all of the non preferred companies (there are really only about four in California…so keep this in mind) were offering a HO3 form homeowners policy for homes with knob and tube wiring. Then, the non preferred companies changed their guidelines to say the same thing as preferred companies, “we don’t care if you have circuit breakers, we don’t want a home with knob and tube wiring”.

Fortunately, one non preferred company of the surplus lines companies, a company called Scottsdale, is still agreeing to insure a home with knob and tube wiring if the amps are 100, if a licensed electrician inspects the wiring and writes a report stating it is safe and if the client (and lender if applicable) will accept a DP1 dwelling fire policy form (this policy form provides a lot less coverage than a homeowners policy form HO3).

What has been a challenge lately is finding an electrician to inspect the wiring and write the favorable report to submit to Scottsdale Insurance Company. Without the 100 amps and the written report, even Scottsdale offering the minimal DP1 dwelling fire policy is not an option.

Knowing that you likely cannot insure a home with knob and tube wiring (well…unless you meet the requirements of Scottsdale, want to pay a great deal for insurance and are fine with the added risk you incur….like self-insuring some of the perils by purchasing a bare bones DP1 policy), then you should consider hiring a licensed electrician to update the electricity in your home. The cost can be considerable, between $8,000 and $20,000 depending upon the square footage and design of the home.

If you are purchasing a home with knob and tube wiring, it will be important that the update to the electricity in the home be completed PRIOR to close of escrow. An insurance company will not agree to insure the home and give you time, say 30 days, to do the updates.  The seller’s lack of maintenance on the house of updating the wiring at some point in time over the years makes their problem (old home wiring is very dangerous problem) your problem. You should not attempt to buy a home that is unsafe to live in and, not being able to buy insurance on it, tells you this really clearly. The insurance companies, even the ones that take almost every other big problem of really old roofs that will likely leak, old heating systems that will likely catch the home on fire or leak toxic fumes into the home and such, are saying no to knob and tube…so big red flag. Too many claims and too severe is a good assumption.

It is unfortunate that some insurance agents are not knowledgeable about knob and tube wiring and believe they can insure a home at close of escrow or otherwise. These agents don’t intentionally mean to mislead homeowners and homebuyers and honestly don’t know the guidelines of the company he or she represents, but the outcome is the same. A policy is written and as soon as the knob and tube wiring is discovered, based on an older home questionnaire, an inspection by the insurance company or in some other way, a notice is sent stating the policy is being cancelled. Suddenly finding out a home is likely uninsurable and $8k or more needs to be spent to have the home’s wiring updated is not a surprise anyone wants.

To learn more about insuring a home with knob and tube wiring, please contact Ramona Johanneson at rjohanneson@fp-ins.com or by calling 415-493-2502.