Florida homeowners claim private insurance companies inflate replacement cost values, ripping them off

12:36 PM, Feb 10, 2012   |    comments
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Citizens Insurance isn't the only one jacking up insurance premiums for profit.


ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Walt Fedorchenko hates looking at the bill for his homeowners insurance. After living in this modest St. Petersburg house for decades -- Walt's latest bill was a shocker.

"In the last year, they've increased it $57,000," Walt tells us.

That $57,000 increase raises the total replacement cost value of his home to $167,000!

"You could rebuild this house for $85,000 brand spanking new," Walt says. "It's a 2-bedroom house, 950 square feet... so it's way over the amount. It's doubled."

10 News first exposed this problem with replacement cost value involving Citizens Insurance -- leading to a class action lawsuit.

"Shame on Citizens, shame on the private companies for not going through the process," said Senator Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) from Tallahassee earlier this week. Fasano supported the class-action suit against Citizens Insurance.

Quite a few 10 News viewers contacted us after seeing the reports about Citizens, complaining about other private insurers. Walt, for instance, has with Universal Property Insurance.

Another viewer, also with Universal, pays for $250,000 worth of insurance when the house could be rebuilt for just $140,000. That's similar to a complaint about American Integrity, insuring a home for $277,000 on a more realistic replacement cost of $158,000. Even Florida Farm Bureau received complaints with a $147,000 policy on an $88,000 home.

American Integrity Insurance was one of only two companies who responded to our calls.

Spokesperson Lisa Miller told us, "It's difficult to gauge how many would be wrong. I think the different softwares can come up with different estimates, and it really is up to the consumer to educate themselves as to what their particular house would cost to rebuild it."

Florida Farm Bureau also responded and said any policyholder can request a replacement cost adjustment with a certified replacement cost appraisal.

Still, for Walt and many others, appraisals like that can be costly.

"I feel like I'm being ripped off by an insurance company. I'm being over charged."

State legislators say it would require a bill to give the Office of Insurance Regulation more oversight over private insurers.

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