Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Insurance Headaches
There could be a new insurance headache for homeowners in the new year. Citizens and other companies will be checking to see if people really deserve better rates because they have storm protections, like shutters and impact glass, but already there are complaints. Investigative reporter, Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- Damaging hurricanes mean big problems for homeowners, and insurance rates that only seem to increase. One way to save is to protect your home with shutters, impact glass and additional support for roofs. All improvements that qualify for credits, which mean reduced premiums, but insurers suspect lots of people who have the credits don't deserve them. So, this year insurance companies are sending out inspectors to re-check homes.
Jose Aleman, Homeowner: "Something is not working OK."
Jose Aleman's policy nearly doubled after he got a notice that his home did not qualify for credits. He says when he contacted his insurance company he was told his home had been inspected, but Jose says nobody ever met with him or came into his home, so how could they inspect?
Jose Aleman: "Something is not real because we have anti-hurricane windows since three to four years ago, and we have shutters for the door."
And now to have his home inspected yet again to prove he deserves a discount Jose will have to pay.
Carmel Cafiero: "So, can you do a drive by inspection for this?"
Jose Uz, Caribbean Inspections: "Absolutely not. Absolutely not, that would be completely fraudulent."
Jose Uz owns a home inspection company and he is concerned about the quality of re-inspections.
Carmel Cafiero: "Because?"
Jose Uz: "Because how can you as a homeowner not know if a proper inspection was conducted in your home. I have to go inside your home. I have to have access into your attic to be able to see inside the structural components of your roof."
And insurance agents say they are getting calls from angry homeowners who are challenging the accuracy of inspections.
Juan Gonzalez, General Lines Insurance: "They are concerned with how am I determining that they don't have these credits when nobody is coming to see them, call them or make an appointment with them."
Agent Juan Gonzalez writes policies for homeowners through a number of different insurance companies. He showed us an example of inspection reports some of his clients are getting when they lose their discounts. Several conditions are marked unknown.
Juan Gonzalez: "It clearly states a lot of unknowns. Unknown which means they could not have possibly gone inside the house and tell me what it was. We are talking about the roof strap, the sheeting that's inside the roof where you have to go through the attic to find out."
So, Juan and other agents are now working with their clients to get the discounts re-instated, but there's another problem.
Maikel Alfonso, Bankers Insurance: "They are only accepting inspections by a company they recommend."
The state says that's not right. Homeowners can choose any licensed professional to do their inspection.
Tammy Torres, Division of Consumer Services: "Under Florida law, you are not required to use a specific insurance or a specific inspection company."
Carmel Cafiero: "It remains to be seen if these problems are just hiccups in a new program or early indicators of bad things to come. Now, if there's something you think I should investigate give me a call or send an E-mail."
If you need to file a complaint we have the information.
For More Information:
Florida Insurance Regulation Division of Consumer Services
IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE: