Home insurers revoking discounts for hurricane-proofing

Many Florida homeowners shelled out thousands of dollars to fortify their homes against hurricanes in recent years to qualify for insurance discounts.
Some got them – for a while. This year, some homeowners are feeling the impact of changes to state laws that, in effect, reduce or erase many insurance discounts.
Howard Goldberg’s windstorm insurance premium dropped 33 percent in 2009 when St. Johns Insurance accepted an inspection report that showed his (http://www.nachi.org/topic/economy-business-finance/citizens-property-insurance-corp.-ORCRP017229.topic), the state’s largest home insurer, began reinspecting homes last year to verify the $700 million in discounts it provides annually. “Our goal for re-inspections is to have the features so well documented that the construction feature is apparent,” said Candace Bunker, spokeswoman for the state-backed insurer.
“If a homeowner complains and believes we are taking away a legitimate credit, we work to make sure that we have correct information, that our action is warranted, and to communicate to the policyholder about how any deficiencies can be remedied if they wish to continue to receive the credit.”
Regulators defend changes in guidelines on the discounts but continue to discuss how to improve them. “Many people have been receiving discounts that were inappropriate, and everyone else is on the hook for repairing their home if a storm hits,” wrote Monte Stevens, a lobbyist for the Office of Insurance Regulation.
State leaders have stressed the importance of making homes stronger and invested more than $200 million of taxpayer money to do so through the My Safe Florida Home program from 2006 to 2009.
Bob Hunter, insurance director of the Consumer Federation of America, says regulators should intervene before people start doubting that insurers give discounts.
“There can’t be any question that they’re being applied fairly,” Hunter said. “I think the insurance commissioner should immediately look into these kind of allegations and…reverse any of these decisions” to lower discounts if they’re wrong.
Cheryl Glick, of Davie, continues to make home improvements, even though her discount has been reduced.
Glick, a bank employee, spent $14,000 on hurricane-impact windows a few years ago and it seemed to pay off when her insurer offered a sizeable discount. This year, the insurer, St. Johns, wanted to increase her premium to $3,423 from $2,206.
She switched to Citizens, which offered her a premium of $2,447 after a $989 discount for hurricane-proofing. But, to lower her premium to that level, Glick reduced her coverage by more than $30,000 to $171, 000.
She’s still hoping for a higher discount: She recently installed an insulated wind-resistant garage door at a cost of $2,600 and plans to replace her front door before asking Citizens to re-consider.
“Bottom line, I needed hurricane protection, and now I have it,” she wrote in an e-mail.