Collier County homeowner: Insurance company ruined my house

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GOLDEN GATE, Fla. – A father of five says his family has been living in cramped conditions for almost a year because his insurance company has taken months to fix his home.

Steve Harts, who lives just outside of Golden Gate, said a storm in January knocked a section of a large pine tree on the back part of his roof and blew off shingles. Harts called his insurance company, People’s Trust Insurance, to file a claim.

“They showed up two days later, had me sign a piece of paper for letter of authority to do work on the house and a few weeks later they showed up and had the estimate to fix the house,” Harts said. “All that time they had not even covered the roof yet, so water was, you know, continuously coming through the house and pooled in the house while we were waiting.”

Shortly after that, Harts said a crew finally tarped the damaged section of roof. But a lot more damage had already been done by then, he said.

“My doors are breaking, my walls are rotting,” he said. “They left this [roof] open for so long, rats were getting into the air conditioning holes. And then when they sealed it up they all died in the attic because there was no way in. Everything was sealed up so my daughter — fortunate for us — she scooped them up.”

When the person the insurance company hired did show up to do work, they did it wrong, Harts said. They tore off the good section of roof, so they had to replace his entire roof.

When someone came out to repair the damaged section, they did not do it correctly and a county inspector had to come out multiple times because it failed inspection, Harts said.

“He said he was just a carpenter, he was not a roofer,” Harts said of the man People’s Trust hired. “But he said it’s not too hard to follow plans and that was what he was doing and the people he had with him were just day laborers.”

While Harts is frustrated with the process, he worries there is a bigger issue and that has to do with the kind of policy he bought.

People’s Trust Insurance offers “managed repair” or “preferred contractor” programs that allow the company to choose the licensed or qualified contractor. Typically, these policies are discounted. But it takes the homeowner’s voice out of the repair process, three different homeowners WINK News has talked to say.

“If we could have picked out our own contractor, we may not be in this situation today,” Harts said.

We contacted a spokesperson for People’s Trust Insurance to ask why the repair has taken so long and why it took multiple inspections before the work passed. They sent us this statement from Jason Coben, the company’s director of quality:

People’s Trust Insurance works to meet the needs of each individual policyholder, even when their claim presents unexpected challenges.

In this case, there are a few factors that are important to note. First, the homeowner did not report the claim for 11 days after the tornado and only reported a few shingles needing to be replaced, indicating it did not require emergency intervention.

This was a very old roof in poor repair with an unconventional three layers of roofing in addition to many patches. Although routine maintenance and periodic roof replacement is not covered by a home insurance policy, we went above and beyond what was required in the policy by removing three roofs, bringing an illegal addition up to code and providing a complete new roof system.

When we removed the roof, we discovered two additional roofs beneath and an illegal addition that was not properly permitted. We also encountered an existing rodent infestation in the home’s attic. Those factors required extensive engineering and building department inspections, which caused significant delays.

We ensured that each step of the repair process was completed by licensed, bonded and insured professionals, and was reviewed and approved by the county. The multiple required reviews and inspections due to the complexity of the existing roofing structure and the illegal home addition added a considerable amount of time to the ongoing repair process. 

Other homeowners complain

We have talked to two other homeowners who described nightmarish claims processes with People’s Trust Insurance. Bert Rivero refused to sign off saying the insurance company could do the work because he felt the initial inspection with the adjuster was not adequate.

Nancy Willeke signed a form to let the insurance company come in and do work, but once she realized what they were and were not going to repair, she refused to move forward.

Both have since hired a lawyer to help them work with People’s Trust.

Why managed repair/preferred contractor

Another spokesperson for People’s Trust Insurance, Michelle Ubben, said in multiple emails with WINK News that this type of policy can be beneficial for the homeowner. It “a seamless recovery process after a covered loss has proven to be popular with a large segment of the population,” Ubben said.

“Instead of just writing a check when a policyholder has a covered claim, People’s Trust works with our affiliated company, the Rapid Response Team (RRT) to provide emergency repairs and manage the restoration process to restore the damaged home to pre-loss condition – or better,” Ubben said. “This unique approach has the benefit of reducing hassle, speeding recovery and holding down costs.”

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