Monday, June 19, 2006
Help Me Howard: Insurance
If your lucky to find affordable housing in Florida, you may not be able to insure it. Some people have sticker shock after getting this years windstorm bills. Which include a 300 percent increase. That has some asking Help Me Howard if that's legal. Here's the Night Team's Patrick Fraser.
WSVN--Gerhard loves living in South Florida.
Gerhard Heidersberger: "I love boating. I love the hot weather. My wife is from the Philippines and is used to the hot weather."
That accent you hear is German.
Gerhard Heidersberger: "I came over in 1964 to learn english and travel and I'm still here."
Still here, living on a canal in a modest home in Ft. Lauderdale.
Gerhard Heidersberger: "We were lucky enough to buy this house when it was inexpensive. I could never afford it now."
And if insurance rates keep soaring he won't be able to afford it much longer.
Gerhard Heidersberger: "I was shocked. I didn't believe it."
Gerhard got slapped in the face when he got his bill for windstorm insurance.
Gerhard Heidersberger: "From $1,100 to $3,003."
Patrick Fraser: "His rates had tripled. In case you just moved here from Montana, windstorm in the insurance that covers much of the damage from hurricanes. Many of the windstorm policies are written by citizens insurance the company created by the State of Florida as a last resort when other companies wont insure you."
But whether you are with citizens or someone else, your rates are gonna be sky high.
Gerhard Heidersberger: "Insurance is going to be as much as the taxes pretty soon or higher."
Actually, Gerhard was insured by a private company. If it had been Citizens, it would have been even higher.
And Help Me Howard has gotten dozens of screams of pain from people whose windstorm rates have doubled or tripled.
Gerhard Heidersberger: "It takes four of my social security checks. Pretty soon it will take all of them."
And don't forget Gerhard still has to pay for flood insurance and homeowners insurance. And if people find a way to pay the 300 percent increase this year, what about next year?
Gerhard Heidersberger: "Maybe next year I'll get another increase of two to three-hundred percent."
What infuriates many people like Gerhard --- they thought the states politicians were going to pass a law to help them. But the law they passed wont.
In fact many people say the incredible rate hikes are just outrageous.
Gerhard Heidersberger: "I don't know how they get past the Florida insurance department."
To find out they did, Gerhard called Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "Rate increases must be approved by the states office of insurance regulation. So far, these double and triple increases have not been approved. But, in almost every circumstance the state grants the insurance companies request for rate hikes."
But the rate hikes have brought up cries of price gouging from many homeowners in Florida.
Howard, is that true?
Howard Finkelstein: "The problem is that with so many hurricanes the pay cuts from the insurance companies have cut into their profits. To keep them here, the state has to grant their hefty rate increases. It's outrages homeowners but legally it's not price gouging."
For Gerhard all the increases seem to be leading to one thing; the realization he may have to pack up and move.
Gerhard Heidersberger: "I don't know how I'm going to retire here. It's almost impossible."
Patrick Fraser: "I cannot tell you how many people we have heard that from in the last few weeks. But lets say you can afford the insurance rate hikes, that's only half the battle.
"For example in Mississippi, U.S. Senator Trent Lott's home was among the thousands destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Now Senator Lott has joined those people in suing their insurance companies because they wont pay for the damage. If an insurance company can refuse to pay a us senator, imagine what they can do to a simple taxpayer like you or me.
"If you want something done, start complaining - to your congressman, your senators, the governor - anyone you can think of."
Outrageous incidents blowing you away? Wanna insure you get a little help? Contact us. We cant put up shutters, but our advice will make sure you don't shudder when tropical trouble tests you.
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