|By Charles Elmore, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
An investigation by
"Citizens is sensitive to these concerns," said board chairman
"The reality is, it's time to respond," said president
The company says it will provide a second, free inspection if a customer makes upgrades to a home within 12 months of a Citizens inspection.
In addition, Citizens will suspend the loss of credits in cases where an inspector says he cannot get into an attic to see roof features, officials said. The customer can request a free inspection when roof access is clear.
Also planned: Better communication to customers about why they are losing credits and how they can dispute the results.
Further changes will be considered at the company's
Citizens did not offer to make the changes retroactive, one legislator said -- and he wants them to do so.
"An enormous amount of damage has already been done," said state Sen.
A Citizens spokeswoman said the senator's request will be shared with board members.
"Citizens placed me in the same category of property owners whose roofs are presumably attached with duct tape," Hess said. She paid for her own inspection by another contractor and is waiting to hear if it has any effect.
"These rules have to be changed," Hess said. "They're not fair."
Sometimes a solution can be as simple as cutting away a piece of insulation or moving clothes in a closet that allows access to an attic, executives acknowledged.
Inspections took away discounts for 74 percent of more than 225,000 customers through
The company has cleared more than
A total of 255,000 homes have been inspected as of early August and 90,000 are still scheduled for reinspection, though the pace has slowed recently, officials said.
Homeowner advocates said the moves are a welcome start but there's lot to fix.
"Citizens has a long way to go to mitigate public opinion," said
State insurance consumer advocate
Citizens is the state's largest property with 1.4 million customers, including 140,000 in
Changes announced Friday from a company statement:
-- Better Communication: Citizens is launching a broad-based communications initiative aimed at better educating policyholders and agents about the inspection process, credit-eligible mitigation features and the types of documentation needed to qualify for mitigation credits. This will include web-based and direct mail educational materials and visual aids to help policyholders and agents identify mitigation features and information that will help policyholders better protect their homes from storms.
--Second Inspection and Attic Access Issues: If requested, Citizens will provide a follow-up inspection free of charge for policyholders who upgrade their home's features within 12 months of an initial Citizens inspection or who disagree with inspection findings. These follow-up inspections will also be provided for policyholders whose credits are removed due to lack of attic access and later are able to make access available. In addition, Citizens will suspend the removal of credits for a minimum of one year when the inspector is unable to gain access to the attic for any reason.
--Enhanced Dispute Resolution Process: Citizens is enhancing the dispute resolution process to increase transparency and better educate policyholders and agents about their options for disputing inspection findings. Policyholders wishing to dispute their re-inspection should contact their agent, or call Citizens at 1-888-685-1555.
What we uncovered
Post Staff Writer
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