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Citizens Insurance Plans Wallet-Friendly Re-inspection Program

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) — Homeowners whose policies are underwritten by Citizens Property Insurance finally have some good news.

CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reports that, due to consumer anger and negative media coverage following $137 million in premium increases, the state's largest insurer is significantly changing its home reinspection program.

Under its new plans, homeowners who lose insurance discounts due to a reinspection can receive a second inspection free of charge.

In three out of four inspection cases, homeowners have lost their discounts, resulting in average premium hikes of more than 30 percent.

Citzens' new plans also include providing homeowners with new tools to dispute first inspectors' findings.

Not all those insured by Citizens may get these new benefits: the company is still deciding whether to apply the changes retroactively.

That decision could impact more than 175,000 property owners, who have lost an average of $800 in credits after their inspections.

The announcement comes less than a week after the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau published a series of stories documenting how hundreds of thousands of Floridians have seen premiums soar as the state-run insurer intensifies its plans to raise rates through reinspections and reduce coverage.

Most of its risk is concentrated in South Florida and the Tampa Bay area, hazard-prone regions where many homeowners cannot find coverage in the private market.

Its actions — including rate increases — affect the entire insurance market, impacting the cost of housing for nearly every Floridian, including those with private insurers.

The initial reinspection program began in 2010, with Citizens sending thousands of inspectors to review the homes of policyholders.

About half of all homeowners receive wind-mitigation discounts for hurricane-resistant features on their homes.

The reinspection program targeted those features, as inspectors have found that thousands of homeowners did not deserve the discounts they were receiving.

The program has ramped up recently, with more than 200,000 inspections completed in the last year.

Consumer advocates have accused Citizens of using the inspections program to raise rates on homeowners. Citizens denied the charge.

The company also said Friday that it would be doing a full operational review to find areas where it could improve, focusing on customer service, administrative expenses and better communication.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)


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