Hurricane Season 2023 has officially begun, but Hurricane Ian recovery is far from ending. Many Southwest Florida homeowners blame their insurance companies for the slow recovery.
Insurance experts advise homeowners to check their coverage at the beginning of the season and update it as needed. Some have said a lot of Southwest Floridians found out after Ian that they didn’t have enough homeowner’s coverage.
One Port Charlotte couple said they did understand their policy before Hurricane Ian. They knew what was in it and they had enough. But now, they believe their insurance company isn’t following its own directions more than eight months later.
Peggy and Mike Ludgate are a very happy and friendly couple but coming out of Hurricane Ian has left them with some emotional scars.
“Something blew through the master bedroom window,” Peggy added. “It sounded like a bomb went off.”
There are physical scars all around their home as well.
“It’s just been like a long, bad nightmare,” Peggy said.
“We couldn’t sleep for quite a while,” added Mike.
“No, we couldn’t,” Peggy finished. “We had nightmares for months.”
The nightmares continue as the Ludgates claim they’ve struggled to get their company, SafePoint Insurance, to honor their policy as written. SafePoint sent them a check for $7,449.16. The Ludgates said their estimated damages are about $55,000.
“You see how we’re living? Would you want to live this way? We think we’ve paid our insurance in good faith. It’s time for you to pay your share in good faith,” Peggy gestured around her home. “They’re playing games. We’re not trying to get rich off insurance. You hear people say ‘Oh, you know, you got a good claim going here.’ We just want what we deserve. What’s owed to us to recoup our savings that we’d spent and depleted.”
They added one of the reasons they went with SafePoint for coverage in the first place was no one would write them a policy since their roof was considered old.
“We finally got SafePoint, who agreed to insure it at what they said was 30 percent. It actually turned out to be 28 percent that they would pay and we would have to pay the difference, which we understand that. We didn’t know we were going to have to do it so soon,” Peggy said.
“Because the [roofing] company did not get paid within 90 days, they liened the house,” added Curt Vogel, the owner of Reliable Insurance Consulting and the Ludgates’ public adjuster.
Vogel said SafePoint eventually paid the roofing company and the lien was removed. He said the current battle is replacing the broken windows. He argued SafePoint wants to replace the windows with the same windows. Florida Building Code says if 25 percent or more of the windows in a house need to be replaced after a hurricane, they need to be replaced with hurricane impact windows. Vogel said SafePoint is still refusing even though the policy requires they be replaced with hurricane impact windows.
“We’re only going to replace the windows with like kind and quality,” Vogel recalled from past email conversations with the insurance company. “Which means that they’re only going to put in panes of glass where they can’t.”
WINK News called and emailed SafePoint hoping to get answers. A couple of days later, the Ludgates told WINK News the insurance company called and said someone would look more into their case. Now, the couple hopes for the best at mediation.
“We want to get this resolved. If we don’t get a result at mediation, we’re going to have to go legal,” Vogel said.
The Ludgates updated WINK News that SafePoint accepted their counter offer at the end of May 2023. They said it’s not what they hoped for, but they needed the money. WINK News reached out to SafePoint insurance again. The company said they are not at liberty to discuss pending claims.
Data from the Florida Department of Financial Services shows 3,916 homeowners filed complaints against their insurer after Hurricane Ian through May 31, 2023. 43 of those are against SafePoint, including the Ludgates’ complaint. 38 have been resolved.