Florida insurer hit with $1 million fine for actions after Hurricane Ian

TALLAHASSEE — Florida regulators issued a $1 million fine against one of the state’s largest homeowners insurance companies Thursday over how it treated policyholders after Hurricane Ian.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation found that Tampa-based Heritage Insurance was slow to respond to claims, slow to pay claims, used improperly licensed adjusters and kept poor records.

The company, which has approximately 150,000 policies in Florida, has agreed to pay the fine.

Findings reached by the organizers Confirming what many Floridians say they experienced after Ian struck southwest Florida as a Category 4 storm in September 2022.

Taking a random sample of a few hundred of Ian’s claims for the company, examiners found several violations of state laws:

  • in In 21.6% of cases, Heritage did not pay or deny claims within 90 days.
  • in In 30.3% of cases, Heritage did not acknowledge that it had received a letter about a claim from the policyholder within 14 days.
  • in In 42.9% of cases, Heritage did not ensure that adjusters provided policyholders with the adjusters’ name and license number.
  • in In 4% of cases, Heritage used improperly licensed adjusters.

Overall, regulators found that the company violated nine different state insurance laws. Regulators also found that Heritage also violated one of its internal policies, failing 57.4% of the time to initiate voice-to-voice communication with the policyholder within one business day of receiving the claim.

In a statement, Ernie Jarratix, Heritage’s CEO, said the company had also noticed the issues internally. He said the company has since taken actions including creating a new position of director of governance and compliance and implementing a new claims management programme.

“Our message to our policyholders is simple: We are committed to excellence and will never stop striving to improve,” Garratics said.

Heritage has had a political presence in Florida since its founding in 2013 by then-CEO Bruce Lucas. The company started helping up to 52 million dollars She was awarded to take policies from state-run Citizens Property Insurance, a decision that came after she donated $110,000 to the then-state government. Rick Scott. It was the company Also a shepherd Governor Ron DeSantis’ re-election ceremony.

Heritage’s parent company has donated at least $2.3 million to Florida politicians and political committees since 2010, state records show.

The fine is one of the largest against an insurance company in Florida history. In 2013, regulators fined Fort Lauderdale-based Universal Property & Casualty Insurance. Nearly $1.3 million Due to incorrect claims being rejected and huge profits being made in its subsidiaries.

The response to the fine from state officials was muted Thursday.

CFO Jimmy Patronis, one of the state’s insurance regulators, hosted a “Putting Policyholders First” roundtable in Coral Gables on Thursday, but did not mention the fine or Heritage’s conduct. Patronis is not supervised by the Office of Insurance Regulation, which imposed the fine.

Florida insurer hit with $1 million fine for actions after Hurricane Ian

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When asked for comment, Patronis spokesman Devin Galletta did not address Heritage’s conduct, instead appearing critical of the company’s fine.

“Instead of sending more money to state coffers, if there are more of these types of penalties, the CFO is interested in exploring legislative solutions where money goes back to policyholders through additional interest rate relief,” Galletta said.

Patronis, state lawmakers and industry have repeatedly blamed “frivolous” lawsuits filed by policyholders for causing Florida’s insurance crisis. The primary response of lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis to the crisis was to make it more difficult to sue insurance companies, an action taken by former President Donald Trump. It’s called the “rescue plan.” for this industry.

Officials in Florida Never studied How many of those lawsuits have arisen due to insurance company misconduct? Heritage was one of the companies accused by some of its officials of manipulating reports to underpay policyholders for a claim. According to the Washington Post. This claim was not addressed in Report of state regulatory bodies.

“This is what people like me, who are consumer advocates, have been trying to get to lawmakers for years,” said Rep. Hillary Cassel, a lawyer who used to work for insurance companies but now represents policyholders.

“This is their behavior, this is their pattern and their practices, this is their business model,” Cassell said. “Treating consumers poorly and not helping them in their time of greatest need, despite paying the highest homeowners insurance premiums in the country.”

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