Action 9 exposed an insurance nightmare facing hundreds of customers who paid one of Florida’s biggest insurers to protect their homes.
The kitchen's gutted walls are cut open, and the floors have been stripped. That’s the condition of Adrienne Herrell's home one year after a water leak triggered a destructive flood.
“I'm 75 years old and I've been homeless for a year,” said Herrell.
“Because of the insurance company?” asked Acion 9's Todd Ulrich.
“Because of the insurance company,” Herrell reiterated. She said Universal Property and Casualty offered $10,000 to cover losses, and then a public adjuster estimated repair costs at $110,000, so Herrell requested state mediation.
“Did both sides agree to a settlement?” asked Ulrich.
“We did. We signed,” said Herrell.
She can't disclose the amount, but more than 60 days later, she called Action 9 because Universal Property still had not paid.
“I'm praying a lot. I've turned to the lord because I can't deal with it," she said.
Watch: What you should know about insurance claims
After Hurricane Matthew ripped the solar panels off Gary and Annette Moskop’s Oviedo home, they too had a run-in with Universal Property and Casualty.
“Was it a slap in the face?” asked Ulrich.
“Oh, yes. Immediately,” said Gary Moskop.
The couple said a messy mediation with the company stuck them with a huge repair bill.
“And how do you treat people like that? We've been with them for years,” said Moskop.
Action 9 checked state records. In six months, 920 customers complained to the Department of Financial Services.
That's a 300 percent increase from a year ago.
Many had hurricane damage.
Four years ago, state regulators fined Universal Property for violations including delayed payments for approved claims. It paid nearly $1.3 million and agreed to change business practices.
The Department of Financial Services said its aware of the influx of complaints and sent its concern to the Office of Insurance Regulation.
“They need to understand this affects people's lives,” said Herrell.
Universal Property and Casualty told Ulrich the current market makes claims challenging to resolve, and Hurricane Matthew generated a 50 percent increase in claims.
Universal sent Adrienne Herrell her check several days after Todd Ulrich contacted the state.
The company said it's paying valid claims faster and says it has requested mediation more to speed up disputes.
Consumers can challenge mediation with a lawsuit but run the risk of attorney fees, and no payment.
Universal Property and Casualty response:
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