What Is an Anti-Assignment Clause?

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DEFINITION
An anti-assignment clause is a provision in an insurance policy that bars the policyholder from transferring their rights under the policy to another party.

An anti-assignment clause is a provision in an insurance policy that bars the policyholder from transferring their rights under the policy to another party. The clause prohibits the insured from authorizing someone else to file claims, make changes, or take other actions under the policy.

Many small businesses purchase insurance policies that contain an anti-assignment clause, which may affect their ability to conduct certain routine business transactions. For instance, if your property is damaged and you hire a contractor to make repairs, the clause may bar you from allowing the contractor to collect loss payments directly from your insurer. In addition, some restrictions found in anti-assignment clauses may be overridden by state laws. Below, we’ll explore further what an anti-assignment clause is and how it works.

Definition and Example of an Anti-Assignment Clause

An anti-assignment clause is language found in an insurance policy that forbids the policyholder from assigning their rights and interests under the policy to someone else without the insurer’s consent. The clause is usually found in the policy conditions section.

Alternate name: Assignment clause, Non-assignment clause

An example of an anti-assignment clause is wording contained in the standard Insurance Services Office (ISO) business owners policy (BOP). You can find it in the Common Policy Conditions (Section III) under the heading “Transfer of Your Rights and Duties Under This Policy.” The clause states that your rights and duties under the policy may not be transferred without the insurer’s written consent. However, if you are an individual named on the policy and you die, your rights will be transferred to your legal representative.

An anti-assignment clause may not include the word “assignment” but instead refer to a transfer of rights under the policy.

How Anti-Assignment Clauses Work

Anti-assignment clauses prevent policyholders from transferring their rights under the policy to someone else without the insurer’s permission. The clauses are designed to protect insurers from unknown risks. Insurers evaluate insurance applicants carefully before they agree to provide coverage. They consider an applicant’s business experience, loss history, and other factors to gauge their susceptibility to claims. When an insurer issues a policy, the premium reflects the insurer’s assessment of the applicant’s risks. If the policyholder transfers their rights under the policy to another party, the insurer’s risk increases. This is because the insurer hasn’t had an opportunity to evaluate the new party’s risks.

The following example demonstrates how an anti-assignment clause in an insurance policy can affect a business.

Theresa is the owner of Tasty Tidbits, a pastry shop she operates out of a commercial building she owns. She has insured her business for liability and property under a business owners policy. Theresa decides to take a one-year sabbatical from her business and asks her friend Ted to manage Tasty Treats during her absence. Theresa signs a contract assigning her rights under Tasty Tidbits’ BOP to Ted.

If a loss occurs, Ted may have no right to file a claim or collect benefits under the policy on Tasty Treats’ behalf. The assignment is barred by the anti-assignment clause in the BOP.

Effect of State Laws on Anti-Assignment Clauses

Many states have enacted laws via a statute or court ruling that override anti-assignment clauses in insurance policies. These laws may invalidate all or a portion of a policy’s anti-assignment provision. While the laws vary, many bar pre-loss assignments but permit assignments made after a loss has occurred. Assignments made before any losses have occurred are prohibited because they increase the insurer’s risks. Post-loss assignments don’t increase the insurer’s risks, so they generally are permitted.

Some states prohibit any assignment of benefits made without the insurer’s consent, whether the assignment occurred before or after a loss.

Here's an example of how a state law can impact an anti-assignment clause in an insurance policy. Suppose that Theresa (in the previous scenario) has returned from her sabbatical and is again operating her business. Tasty Treats is located in a state that bars pre-loss assignments but allows assignments made after a loss has occurred.

Late one night, a fire breaks out in the pastry shop and a portion of the building is damaged. Theresa files a property damage claim under her BOP and hires Rapid Reconstruction, a construction company, to repair the building. At the contractor’s suggestion, Theresa assigns her rights to receive benefits for the claim under the BOP to Rapid Reconstruction. Because Theresa has assigned her rights after a loss has occurred, the assignment is permitted by law and should be accepted by Theresa’s insurer.

Key Takeaways

  • Many policies purchased by small businesses contain an anti-assignment clause.
  • An anti-assignment clause bars the policyholder from assigning their rights and interests under the policy to someone else without the insurer’s consent.
  • Many states have a statute or court ruling that overrides anti-assignment clauses in insurance policies.
  • State laws vary, but many prohibit pre-loss assignments yet permit assignments made after a loss has occurred.

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