In Southwest Florida, the state’s largest home insurance company is making waves by mandating random home inspections for thousands of its customers. Against the backdrop of escalating rates from the state-run Citizens Insurance company, a growing chorus of concern is emerging among policyholders who fear that these inspections may serve as a catalyst for further spikes in their insurance costs.

Reports from policyholders underscore a perplexing pattern. Citizens Insurance Company is reaching out to individuals, instructing them to undergo home inspections, even if they’ve recently had one. The surprise element inherent in these calls is leaving many without a choice, as the company is enforcing the inspections with a seemingly unyielding resolve.

Marylou Simon, a policyholder under the Citizens umbrella, recently found herself at the receiving end of an unexpected call from the insurance giant. Despite diligently explaining that she had undergone a comprehensive inspection just six months prior, her plea seemed to fall on deaf ears. The insistence on another inspection is emblematic of a broader strategy being implemented by Citizens.

Erika Valentino, another individual in the same boat as Marylou, shared her experience with NBC. “They called me on a Tuesday and came on a Wednesday.  I asked them why they’re doing this and they said they’re telling us all to re-inspect,” Valentino said.

To provide clarity on the matter, Michael Peltier, a spokesperson for Citizens, took to the public on Thanksgiving Day to confirm the legitimacy of these inspection requests. According to Peltier, “They wanted us to go out and get a more accurate picture of the policies that we cover.” Citizens, currently overseeing 1.4 million policies statewide, is actively engaged in a strategic effort to shed a substantial number of them, aiming to ensure the long-term financial solvency of the company.

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Data analysis provides a compelling snapshot of the situation. In 2019, Citizens inspected a mere 2,200 of the homes it insured. A stark contrast emerges when one looks at their ambitious goal for 2023 – a plan to inspect a staggering 300,000 properties by year-end.

Peltier underscores that these inspections, unlike certain other types, do not impose financial burdens on homeowners. It’s a critical distinction, separating these routine assessments from four-point inspections or wind mitigation inspections, which necessitate financial commitment from policyholders. “These are getting confused with four-point inspections or wind mitigation inspections that are paid for by the policyholder,” Peltier stressed.

Yet, despite these assurances, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over many homeowners. The prospect of potential rate increases looms large, prompting understandable anxiety. Peltier, however, offered a nuanced perspective on the matter. He revealed that in 42% of cases, premiums have actually decreased following the inspections. The remaining 58%, however, have witnessed either increases or the maintenance of existing rates.

Insurance experts are quick to point out that an updated home inspection, though initially unnerving, can potentially uncover issues that may, in the long run, prove beneficial for homeowners. The idea is that addressing these issues promptly could avert more significant problems down the line, ultimately leading to cost savings.

Despite these assurances, some homeowners remain apprehensive. Marylou Simon, for instance, anticipated a 20% increase in her rates, admitting: “I just don’t have that in my budget right now.” On the other hand, Erika Valentino has adopted a wait-and-see approach, choosing to observe the outcome of her rates following the home inspection before jumping to conclusions.

For those facing potential rate increases, experts advise a proactive approach – exploring alternative options in the market. Florida’s evolving market dynamic provides an opportunity for policyholders to shop around, potentially finding more favorable terms and conditions.

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