South Floridians fume over Citizens Insurance re-inspections

68% of customers lost credits after re-inspections

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - Many South Floridians are fuming over Citizens Insurance's re-inspection process.

Ellen Zulka, of Pompano Beach, lost credit for having a secure, permitted roof after her re-inspection.

"I was appalled. He missed the fact I had a new roof," said Zulka.

The private inspector hired by Citizens indicated on a report no roof permits were found and her roof was not up to current code.

Zulka said she wanted to show the inspector permits when he was at her house.

"He said no, he didn't need to see it," she added.

Local 10 found permits that show Zulka's roof was put on in 2005, was inspected, and is up to code.

"It took me three and a half months to get this resolved," said Zulka.

The state run insurer said it's re-inspecting homes to make sure people aren't getting credits and discounts for home protections they don't have.

But customers said they have no idea what they can say or do during the re-inspections process, and don't know the rules.

Some Citizens customers told Local 10 they lost credits simply because they don't have stickers on their impact windows, even though permits show the windows are up to code.

"Many inspectors aren't doing their homework. Some are being lazy," an inspector, who asked not to be identified, told Local 10.

F.S. Rodman, of Hollywood, lost credit because the inspector said her garage door was not up to code. But a sticker on the back of the garage door clearly says it is.

"It's almost like the inspector didn't want to find the things that would have given me credits," said Rodman.

Despite the fact that 270,000 homes in Florida have already been re-inspected, Citizens says change is on the way.

"We are listening. We know we need to do a better job. We know people are frustrated with us and rightfully so," said Christine Ashburn, a spokeswoman for Citizens Insurance. "We are committed to re-vamping how we are handling this program."

Ashburn said in the next few weeks, Citizens will be unveiling a better, customer-focused dispute program. It will also include better training for inspectors.

Citizens said its 700 inspectors hired to do re-inspections aren't given incentives to find flaws, nor are they given quotas.

Ashburn said 30 inspectors have been fired from the program because of complaints.

But insiders like Ralph Cabal, the Secretary of the Florida Association of Building Inspectors, said the inspectors he has talked to are being told to look for deficiencies.

"They have a certain percentage that they have to keep up of deficiencies found," said Cabel.

Citizens says there is no directive from them and will take corrective action if evidence is presented.

Citizens is the largest insurer in the state with 1.5 million policies.

So far, 270,000 re-inspections have been done statewide. In 68 percent of the cases, the insurance company has taken credits away from customers, resulting in $130 million in added premiums for Citizens. About 80,000 re-inspections still need to be done this year.

Experts say to make copies of all documents for windows, doors, shutters, and the roof and to hand them to the inspector when he arrives. The inspector is supposed to move insulation, with a customer's permission, if they can't visibly see roof ties in the attic.

If you have an complaints, call Citizens at 1-888-685-1555.

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