|By Charles Elmore, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"They just steamroller over the common people," Arsenault said. "I don't suppose, if I hadn't called the newspaper, anybody would have paid attention."
Citizens, whose board approved an overall rate cut of 1 percent Wednesday after acknowledging it could not justify continued rate hikes for most customers, is simply trying to be a responsible insurer of last resort, company officials say.
But customers like Adinolfe, who lives in
Never mind he says the company should have been able to confirm the roof was replaced 20 or fewer years ago, and Citizens says it allows roofs up to 25 years old. The roof survived multiple hurricanes without a claim, had no visible damage, and Citizens never offered a report detailing any particular faults, he said. In the end, he saw little choice but to pay. He is aware of no other insurer who will cover him.
"They're able to do whatever they want to do and get away with it," Adinolfe said. "To me, that's bullying."
Citizens officials say that is not their intent, and emphasize it is important to work with agents to make sure the company has the right information. A company executive speaking to hundreds of concerned mobile home owners in
"We want to give policyholders and their agents the information they need to make well-reasoned decisions," said Citizens spokesman
Customers have options including, for example, an updated roof inspection to make sure replacement is needed, he said. Roofs under 25 years old can still be deemed uninsurable if they are judged have less than three years of life left, he noted.
Some who get fed up can leave if they want. About 600,000 of 1.5 million Citizens customers have moved to private competitors in the last couple of years, a record number.
But company executives have acknowledged at least two in three of the company's remaining 900,000 policyholders aren't likely to find coverage easily from a private insurer with state-regulated rates. Many live in mobile or manufactured homes, older homes, multi-family structures or other properties near the coast that private carriers have largely refused to cover.
Many people assume Citizens has no choice because it is merely obeying laws it cannot control, but it turns out that is not always true. In the cases above, Citizens acted on rules it adopted internally, company officials acknowledged.
The state-run company is overseen by Gov.