When company inspectors come calling

May 4, 2011

The following article was published in the Miami Herald on May 3, 2011:

When Company Inspectors Come Calling

By Al Sunshine

If you own a House of Condo, your Insurance Company may soon be letting you know they’re sending out an inspector to check out your property.

It’s part of the Industrys’ efforts to better know the amount of risk they have in your property, and what it’ll cost to rebuild.

But in most cases, it end up leaving you with higher insurance bills because the inspectors may cancel “Mitigation Credits” like storm shutters and roof reinforcements that have saved you money on your Bills.

Those credits, and the way homes are inspected, have been changed following intensive lobbying by the Insurance Industry to find ways of raising rates to better “Capitalize” their Florida Business. In simple language critics say, that means raising rates so they can earn bigger profits.

As it stands today, the Insurance Company picks it’s inspectors to check out your house. You have no choice. You can’t refuse the inspections, or the company will probably cancel you or jack up your rates. If you disagree with the findings, you still have the right to contract your own inspection.

But under current law there is no independent mediation process, and companies are under no obligation to even read your inspectors report, much less over-rule their own inspectors.

Why should you care?

Because once the inspection report finds you can’t prove your home meets the latest codes, your Insurance Companies will raise your rates and your bills will grow by hundreds of dollars a year.

I know, it happened to me.

An Insurance Company Inspector disqualified my storm shutters because he didn’t find a small “acceptance” decal showing they were “Code-Approved”. He also said my roof wasn’t built according to code because he couldn’t see the extra roof bracing I had installed.

But my inspector found both with no problem and told me a qualified iosnweopctor would have been able to find both “deficiencies”.

Remember again, the Inspector is hired by the Insurance Company and NOT the homeowner.

The insurance company raised my rates about $1200 a year.

I dumped them and went with Citizens.

So how does the State’s “Insurer of Last Resort” handle it’s inspections?

We talked with Christine Ashburn, director of legislative and external affairs for Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Q. Can a homeowner challenge an inspection and ask that their inspection report be used instead of Citizens’ Inspector?

A. homeowner can dispute Citizens inspection findings by submitting documentation that clearly refutes the information collected during Citizens inspection. The findings of an inspection purchased by a homeowner generally will not supersede the findings of a Citizens inspection because a majority of homeowner purchased inspections do not include the same level of detail that a Citizens inspection contains nor the same documentation such as photographs to support the inspection findings. Photographs were only recently required to be submitted with wind mitigation inspections on June 1, 2010, so many of the homeowner inspections Citizens has on file have no supporting documentation accompanying them.

Citizens inspections go through a thorough quality review process and will document all of the wind mitigation features of the home including photographs of each feature where applicable. The inspection will also include the inspectors comments on each mitigation feature, which provides Citizens and homeowners insight into how the inspector arrived at his findings. This is not normally found in wind mitigation inspections purchased by homeowners.

Q. If there is a discrepancy between inspection reports, is there a mediation process to resolve them?

A. If a discrepancy exists, Citizens will thoroughly review all documents on file regarding the mitigation features present on the home to determine the appropriate premium credits to be applied to the policy. Customers and their agents can submit any additional documentation to Citizens that they believe refute Citizens inspection findings. As indicated above submission of another inspection alone is generally not sufficient to refute Citizens inspection findings.

Q. Can a customer refuse to accept a Citizen’s Inspection Report?

A customer cannot refuse to accept the findings of a Citizens inspection. If a discrepancy exists customers can dispute the findings by submitting documentation to Citizens that clearly refutes Citizens inspection findings.

Q. Can a customer have their own Inspector present to observe the Inspection process and point out any discrepancies to the Citizen’s Inspector?

Citizens discourages this practice to ensure our inspector is provided an objective environment to collect unbiased information about the wind mitigation features of the home.

A. How were the Inspection Companies Chosen and does a customer have the right to decide which one conducts the inspection on their property?

The inspection companies and independent inspectors performing Citizens inspections meet certain licensing and experience requirements established by Citizens to participate in the Inspection & Outreach Program. Customers cannot choose which inspection company conducts the inspection of their property. See question 6 for more details.

Q. Can a consumer ask for a specific company to do their inspection?

A. Specific inspectors and inspection companies cannot be requested. This is done to ensure an objective review of the property is performed and avoid the potential for the inspector who performed the policyholder’s original inspection from performing Citizens inspection. In the unlikely event that an inspector is assigned to perform Citizens inspection of a property that he has already inspected for a homeowner, the inspector is required to notify Citizens inspection program administrator so the inspection can be reassigned to another inspector.

Q. What paperwork, county inspection reports or permitting history should a consumer have available on-sight to provide documentation that their property was built according to applicable current building codes at time of construction, used all code-approved products, was properly permitted for construction, and successfully passed its’ final inspection?

A. Consumers should have any documentation regarding the wind-resistive features of their homes available for the inspector to review at the time of inspection. Examples of documents that should be made available for review include roofing permits, detailed receipts, photographs of roofing or product installations, product notice of acceptance paperwork (NOAs), invoices or work orders that contain wind mitigation product details and testing standards and/or construction details of the home.

Find this article here:  http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/05/03/v-print/2198884/when-company-inspectors-come-calling.html