What Policyholders Need to Know About Citizens Property Insurance Hurricane Proofing Inspections

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

Citizens Property Insurance Company has been inspecting homes and taking back discounts previously provided to policyholders based on implementation of wind resistant measures.  A report published recently in the Sun Sentinal indicates that the inspections understandably have drawn criticism.  Premiums have risen for 3 in 4 policyholders subject to the inspections, whereas premiums have gone down for only 7 percent of homeowners.  The annual premium for the remaining policyholders subject to the inspections have remained unchanged.

Critics contend that the inspections are a way for Citizens to circumvent the ten percent cap on annual premium increases.  According to estimates provided by Citizens, premium increases related to the inspections have generated $137 million, and the cost of the inspections are estimated at $35 million to this point.

Citizens disputes that the inspections constitute subterfuge to circumvent the annual maximum on premium increases.  “Citizens provides $1 billion in credits annually to its policyholders.  It is imperative that we only provide credits for policies which actually contain wind mitigation features,” contends Christine Ashburn, a Citizens spokesman.  She also told the Sun Sentinal that Citizens has the right to charge fees to nearly all Florida residents to offset shortfalls in the event of a major hurricane, so the financial cost of unjustified discounts will fall on state residents.

Citizens has subjected more than 225,500 homeowners to inspections as of late July with the net result being an average rate increase of $598.  Because Citizens is Florida’s largest property insurer with over 1.4 million policyholders, these inspections have adversely impacted many homeowners.  This two-part blog provides answers to questions and issues related to the inspections being conducted by Citizens.

What should a policyholder do if they are subject to an inspection?

The homeowner should ensure that any storm mitigation measures are easy for the inspector to identify.  The inspectors can remove credits for wind damage prevention measures without waiting for the homeowner to make the premises ready for inspection.  While the shutters might not need to be in place, the hardware should be permanently installed.  An insured should also have documents like permits and receipts that relate to any upgrades made by the homeowner.

An example is provided by Wayne Bragg who told his story to the Sun Sentinal.  Bragg indicated that last year when Citizens sent an inspector to his home his discounts were approved.  When the inspector examined the premises this year, he indicated that he could not see the attic trusses because they were obscured by insulation.  The inspector also claimed that he was unsure if all the shutters were present because they were stacked up.  Bragg disputed the accuracy of these observations.  Following the inspection, Bragg’s premium increased by $3,000 from $4,700 to a total premium of $7,700. 

What does an insured do if he cannot pay the increased premium?

If a policyholder disputes the inspection report, the conclusions and findings can be challenged by producing evidence like documents, photos, receipts and invoices that pertain to wind resistant features installed in the home.  If this strategy does not work, the policyholder might adjust the deductible or reduce the amount of coverage.

If you or your loved one has questions about property insurance claims, we may be able to help.  If you think you might need an insurance attorney for your claim or you have questions about your rights, my law firm represents policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida.  The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free case evaluations.  No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees.  Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.

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