A large nail or screw may sell for just a few cents at most home improvement stores. But one missing nail could cost homeowners hundreds of dollars.
That's why Allan Schwartz was so anxious when a home inspector visited Friday.
"I think it's normal for anybody to be nervous," he offered.
The nerves were because his insurance company, Citizens, ordered a new inspection of his home. The state-run property insurance company is in the process of inspecting more than a half-million Florida homes. The inspections are designed to determine if policyholders deserve discounted rates for strengthening their homes against wind damage.
Eliminating so-called "wind mitigation credits" could net Citizens millions in extra premiums.
"It seems like everyone who gets a re-inspection is failing the inspection," observed State Senator Mike Fasano.
The New Port Richey Republican said he and his staff spend more time dealing with complaints about Citizens and its home re-inspection program than any other issue.
"This is a way for Citizens to get around rules that limit their rate increases," Fasano continued. "Homeowners are spending tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade their roofs only to be told by Citizens they're missing one nail."
Terry Steponaitis was hired by Citizens to inspect homes. Amazingly he said Citizens often does not believe what he puts in his reports.
"I guess they don't believe the written word. They want to actually see, a picture is worth a thousand words."
He takes hundreds of pictures, yet by some estimates, 60 percent of the homes inspected lose wind mitigation credits.
Dave Bennett runs his own independent home inspection company. He insisted Citizens looks for reasons to fail inspections.
"They're not looking at the big picture, looking at the small picture, looking at what they can find to fail."
Schwartz had a new roof, with numerous upgrades, installed in 2000. It could be several more months before he knows whether the investment will continue paying off with a discounted Citizens policy.
A Citizens spokeswoman did not answer repeated calls inquiring about the home re-inspection program.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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