April 17, 2013
TALLAHASSEE—As Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate, October of last year, I requested the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) to investigate the claims handling practices of one of the largest homeowners insurance companies, Universal Property & Casualty, for using information regarding consumer’s credit history to deny claims. This practice is referred to as post-claim underwriting. Companies may legally use credit information to assess risk during the underwriting of a policy but it should NOT be used as an excuse to deny a claim.
My office has continued to receive complaints and heart wrenching stories of families that have had their claims denied and coverage voided by this company. This practice is reprehensible and should cease immediately. The company has claimed that the insured has made “misrepresentations” on the application for insurance. Most of the consumers that have contacted this office may have made an error but most were unintentional and without malice. More importantly, the claims have nothing to do with the alleged “misrepresentation.”
Florida insurance consumers deserve protection from this unfair practice. I have authored an amendment to Senate Bill 1046 that would halt this unfair post-claim underwriting practice. This amendment requires credit issues to be addressed by the insurance company within the first 90 days of the policy period. This allows the company a window to establish if the application for insurance coverage falls within its underwriting guidelines. If the company fails to bring an underwriting concern forward, then they would not be allowed to use a credit issue that can easily be ascertained from credit reports or public records to deny a claim or void coverage after a claim.
We have worked with the Office of Insurance Regulation since our letter in October by forwarding the additional consumer complaints and I have also requested Insurance Commissioner McCarty by the letter dated today and attached to this press release for his support of this amendment to protect Florida insurance consumers. At this time, I am asking all insurance policyholders to write or call your Representative or Senator to support this important consumer protection amendment. Consumers can also send me an email at ICA@myfloridacfo.com to voice their support for this amendment.
The Insurance Consumer Advocate is appointed by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and is committed to finding solutions to insurance issues facing Floridians, calling attention to questionable insurance practices, promoting a viable insurance market responsive to the needs of Florida’s diverse population and assuring that rates are fair and justified.