Dec. 13, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, FL–Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Smith Westcott today pushed for improvements to Citizens Property Insurance Corporation’s underwriting and claim payment policies at a meeting of the company’s Consumer Services Committee, saying the recommendations were based on actual consumers who had called her office for help.
Westcott, who serves on the Consumer Services Committee, also outlined her concerns in a recent letter.
“I take my job as insurance consumer advocate very seriously and I am determined to do all I can to make sure Citizens is doing right by Florida consumers,” Westcott said. “I am being proactive in raising these issues and consumer stories.”
Westcott told of a senior who, after paying off his home mortgage and cancelling his policy after 11 years with Citizens and the Florida Joint Underwriting Association, ended up paying $8,500 of his $10,600 annual premium for 82 days of coverage due to Citizens’ short-rate refund provision.
She said she understands Citizens’ policy is in place to keep consumers from jumping in only for hurricane season coverage, but she said it is “very questionable whether this is a real problem.”
Regarding a Citizens’ policy that penalizes consumers if they fail to close or secure their shutters during a tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning, she said, “This penalty provision is highly inequitable because it potentially penalizes a consumer who fails to close their shutters more than a consumer who doesn’t have shutters, even though the risk to Citizens is the same.”
She also spoke out against Citizens’ underwriting guidelines that deny coverage to applicants who have been canceled or non-renewed in the past seven years for material misrepresentation, which is often the result of unfair claims practices of the prior insurer or incorrect answers in insurance applications filled out by the agent. She said not only are they canceled by their prior insurer, but are precluded from getting coverage from the state’s insurer of last resort and end up with no coverage and in risk of foreclosure.