Water Damage Insurance Claims Pendulum Swinging the Wrong Way for Florida Policyholders
I want to thank Florida Public Adjuster Michael Platts for penning this excellent commentary.
By Michael W. Platts
We are rapidly approaching the end of the hurricane season. It has been an unprecedented nine years since a hurricane has struck the State of Florida. Nonetheless, many citizens are not seeing much if any reduction in their property insurance premiums and worse yet, the overall environment seems to be one in which the consumer continues to receive less and less coverage whether it is a result of unfavorable court rulings, legislative machinations which strengthen the hand of the insurance companies or more restrictive language within the insurance companies’ contracts (their policies).
One aspect of coverage reductions which we are seeing here in Florida is the “continuous or repeated seepage or leakage” and “fourteen day” provisions. In my day (yes, I’ve been adjusting claims for quite a while), an insurance company would pay for the components of the damages which were a result of the sudden and unexpected initial leak.
Let me explain: Let’s say that a pipe within a shower wall developed a leak. And let’s further stipulate that for whatever reason, the leak remained undiscovered for a period of months. Perhaps it occurred in an unused second or third bathroom, or maybe the homeowner was elderly and not able to discern that the damage was occurring, or as is very common in Florida, the property owner was a seasonal resident and was away for several months.
In any event, historically, the insurance company would still pay for the cost to locate and get to the leak (including a leak detection companies services, tearing out and replacing the tile shower walls and floor along with other components of the shower stall, and replacing an adjacent pressboard bathroom vanity). They typically would not pay for removal and replacement of components which had become damaged as a result of the continual exposure to the water leak. This could include rotted studs and the like. Nor, of course, would they pay for the labor and materials to repair the leak itself. After all, the leak is generally considered to be an issue of “wear and tear, gradual deterioration or inherent vice” which policies typically exclude from coverage.
I think that most adjusters would agree that this is a fair approach to resolving the claim. However, nowadays, many insurance companies have taken the hard-line approach that they will cover none of the damage, including those damages which would have been incurred during the initial occurrence of the leak. This results in a higher number of lawsuits which then turns into higher insurance premiums for all Floridians.
We believe this provision is patently unfair to the policy holders of Florida and that our only hope (dim though it may be) is that the courts in the State of Florida grant some injunctive relief to the citizenry. Keep your fingers crossed but don’t bet on it! As referenced earlier, the pendulum seems to have been swinging toward supporting the rights of the insurance companies rather than the consumers.
Perhaps a concerted campaign of communication with our elected officials might result in some legislative relief, but then again, I wouldn’t place a wager on it. The insurance companies pour lots more money into the re-election coffers of those officials than you or I can. But if enough people complain about this unfair and unreasonable provision it just might be possible to get its’ acceptance, application and subsequent ramifications reversed.
If you have questions regarding any property insurance claim related issues please call 800.321.4488 or contact us to submit a question to one of our public adjuster or insurance claim experts.