FT LAUDERDALE (CBS4/AP) – Missing numbers on hurricane shutters are costing some South Florida homeowners thousands of dollars when it comes to paying for their property insurance.
Wolf Krammel immediately started searching for the numbers stamped on his hurricane shutters after inspectors from his insurance company couldn’t find them. Krammel said he received a notice from Citizen’s Property Insurance which stated that since there were no numbers on his shutters, “certain wind mitigation credits were not applied,” according to CBS affiliate WPEC in Palm Beach.
According to a recent lawsuit filed against Citizen’s Property, the loss of discount credits for “wind mitigation” since 2010 has cost 226 thousand customers statewide approximately $165 million. That’s about $810 a year per policy according to the lawsuit.
Click Here to read more about the class action lawsuit filed against Citizens.
Thomas Johnston, a consumer advocate, said the insurance companies have found a loophole and are taking advantage of it.
“There are hundreds and maybe thousands of people who have lost credits, who deserve credits and should have them reinstated,” said Johnston.
So why are the shutter numbers so important?
Back in 2009, the state started requiring manufacturers to label shutters with a product approval number to prove they meet the most current state building codes.
Don Keenan runs All American Shutters where Wolf Krammel bought his storm panels.
“The insurance companies have figured out a way to make the homeowners do the legwork to get their credits,” said Keenan. “We’ve had the same tested and approved products that started since just after Hurricane Andrew in the mid 90s.”
Citizens Insurance has denied it’s intentionally denying discounts.
“At the end of 2010, Citizens had awarded $675 million in wind mitigation credits,” said Citizens’ representative Michael Peltier who added, “By the end of 2012, that figure had nearly doubled to $1.2 billion.”
Krammel remains hopeful once he finds all the numbers on his shutters, he can start cutting back his bills.
“I probably can pull it off, but I would assume that many people under other circumstances might have a hard time. Elderly people can’t do that. I just think it’s not fair,” said Krammel.
Citizens Insurance is now telling customers they can get free follow-up inspections if they believe the first one was incorrect.
The company is also trying to get the lawsuit against it dismissed.
In the meantime, thousands of Florida homeowners continue to complain about growing insurance bills and the loss of their long-time discounts.
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