Saturday, December 31, 2011

Insurance discounts granted and revoked by same inspection firm ...

It appears Coconut Creek resident Sandy Teich wasn't the only one who hired an inspection firm that said her home upgrades qualified for insurance discounts only to have the very same firm do another inspection at the insurer's expense and take the discounts away.

Eight South Floridians called or wrote this week to say they had the same experience. Most are insured by Citizens and all said they had the same inspection firm as Teich. That firm did more than 17,316 of the re-inspections Citizens processed as of Dec. 20.

Phil Calder of Tamarac wrote: "Citizens hired [a firm] to do my inspection which is the one of the same companies...who gave me a perfect inspection two months earlier!" He said he plans to leave Citizens because the insurer claims it's not subject to laws that require insurers to handle claims in good faith.

Neil Leibowitz, of Plantation, wrote that he received a few, minor discounts about three years ago from a firm and "a few months ago, another [inspector from the same firm] came over, to verify the discounts I received based on the earlier inspection. If you read the two reports, it doesn't sound like these two inspectors are talking about the same house." He said Gov. Rick Scott has advocated larger rate hikes for Citizens so consumers will go elsewhere: "Only problem is that 'elsewhere,' is essentially nowhere, since the only companies available seem to be start-ups, third rate, or pure scams. I was taken out of Citizens twice in the past few years. Both companies didn't last two years.....and these were years in which we had no hurricane damage to contend with."

Tom Steder wrote: "My sons property was reinspected by the SAME... inspector as the original report and was drastically different from the original. Nail spacing had changed on the roof? The roof to wall attachment had changed? All of this while NOTHING had been done to the roof. The premium increase was ludicrous."

About a dozen homeowners reported they had different inspection firms both times but had the same result: a much higher premium.

A few said it paid to fight their insurers for legitimate discounts and one said her State Farm agent helped her with it. Others said shopping around made sense. Nina and Frank Panuzzo of Plantation said their premium with State Farm after the insurer's re-inspection increased to $4,380, up 37 percent from the year before and 62 percent from 2010. With a deductible of roughly $16,000, they said they wondered, "Why have insurance?" But they shopped around and found an insurer, an AAA affiliate, that offered a premium of $3,564 with a much lower deductible.

Teich, whose premium with Citizens increased by about $850, or 23 percent, reported today at the insurer has agreed to refund about $500. She provided Citizens with NOA documents for some of her home upgrades earlier this month.


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