Column: And now a word from Citizens Insurance …

Apr 10, 2011

The following article was published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune on April 10, 2011:

And now a word from Citizens Insurance …

By Harold Bubil

Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Florida’s so-called “insurer of last resort,” may have gotten poor grades for customer service in the past, but I will give it high grades for effective communication.


We received a March 21 letter from them recently that read:


“Policy XX is being cancelled by Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens). This policy will not provide any protection after the cancellation effective date and time specified above. The reason for this action is:

“Failure to provide proof that the handrails have been installed on steps/decks or porch. The exposure is more hazardous than contemplated in our approved rates and is not eligible for coverage through Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.

“Please contact your agent if you have any questions.”

Missing from this letter, other than any hint that a human wrote it, is a possible remedy, such as:

“If you install handrails, please send a photo of them to your agent and we will be happy to reinstate your policy.”

No, it was up to us to make that assumption. So we hired a carpenter, spent $100 on materials at a big-box home store, and, by the end of the day, had two attractive handrails in place. Not that we had a choice. Had Citizens cancelled our policy, our mortgage company would have force-placed insurance on the property, and force-placed insurance is very expensive. Our annual premium could have tripled.

Nothing motivates like a $4,000 annual penalty.

Our carpenter, Charles, hadn’t even swept up the sawdust when I snapped a picture of the new handrails. I emailed them to our insurance agent on Monday, April 4, and on Thursday, April 7, I received this notice:


“Policy XX has been reinstated with no lapse or gap in coverage. This notice serves as your record of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation’s reinstatement of the policy.

“Please contact your agent if you have any questions.”

Now that is customer service. In fact, my agent, Mary Dakkak, says Citizens has greatly improved its underwriting and customer service recently.

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