MARY READY: My derelict Destin domicile & the insurance blame game

Mary Ready, Ready or Not

I wish I knew whom to blame. I started to begin with, “whom to hate.” But hate is such a strong word, and its synonyms, abhor, detest, despise, and abominate are even stronger.

My hair-pulling frustration started last spring when we took out a bank loan on our paid-for house. A week later, my insurance company wrote to tell me that my policy was about to expire. And the premium was going way up. Seems they didn’t like my 1973, aluminum-wired, derelict domicile in Destin, a place they claim is “too old” and at hurricane risk. For almost $5,000 yearly, and a $5,000 windstorm deductible, they would re-insure. I said, “No, thanks.”

In retrospect, I should have sold a kidney and paid them.

I set about trying to find other insurance, with the bank lady calling almost weekly to remind me that the loan was in jeopardy if the house went uninsured. I told her the same thing for months: “I’m working on it.”

By August, I had found only two companies that would insure us for close to $6,000 provided we passed a four-point inspection. The four points are plumbing, electrical, roof inspection, and HVAC. The Four Point Insurance Inspection, created after Hurricane Andrew struck Florida in 1992, is ordered by insurance companies as a requirement for the insurer offering insurance to homeowners. After Opal and Katrina, the Four Point Insurance Inspection has taken on a level of bureaucratic insanity at a fee to the homeowner of $425.

We failed all points except the A/C as we had just spent an obscene amount of money to put in a new one.

First came the roof guy to install hurricane straps. After spending two days up in our August-heated attic, he emerged, dripping in sweat to announce my roof was so solidly built, he’d have to tear up the supporting beams in order to implement the insurance company-required straps. He further admitted if he did that, he would actually weaken the roof’s ability to withstand hurricane winds, something my house has been doing very well for more than 30 years.

I applied for a waiver, based on his professional documentation that my roof was okey-dokey. The waiver, after paying the roofer a handsome sum for his efforts, was granted. The raccoons were glad to see him go as he had disturbed their peace and quiet up in my attic.

Then came the plumbing. The house inspection revealed that my antiquated pipes had to be replaced with the latest whatever. When my handyman went to replace the copper pipes, which were fine and fully functioning, the new PVC stuff was incompatible with the type and size of the pipes in the wall, and the machinations of tearing out the wall created a flood of water down through the floor into the den below.

When I called the inspector to tell him that his directive had made the situation worse, he said he forgot to tell me he had removed that issue from his report, and that the old pipes were acceptable. Plumbing repair after that fiasco? $345.

Next we addressed the aluminum wiring. A licensed electrician inspected all 53 outlets in the house and verified no problem and no danger. However, for the electricity to meet code, they would happily fix that for $3,000. The inspector came back for the third time (at $50 each trip) and still wrote down electrical flaws. After the electrician’s fifth visit and the inspector’s fourth re-inspection, we at last passed.

That is, provided we rip out the diving board from our pool. “After all,” the insurance agent said, “we can’t risk a drunk leaping off your diving board and getting hurt.”  So, I guess I’ve also got to un-invite that steady stream of boozers who enjoy my pool as no one in my family drinks.

At this point we’re still uninsured, and the bank has placed forced insurance on us, just enough to cover the loan but not the house and contents.

Now, who to blame? Do I blame the insurance agencies, or do they have no choice but to follow state mandates?  Or is there some element of greed involved? The 4-point inspector blames the electricians and the plumber. The plumber and electricians blame the inspector. The handyman blames the electricians, the plumber, the inspector, and the insurance commissioner.  The roof guy also blames the insurance commissioner, but admitted it brought him a lot of business.  I blame myself for not paying the original insurance offer as I have spent way more than that and still don’t have house insurance.

By the way, our insurance commissioner is Jeb Bush-appointed Kevin McCarty, who said in a recent interview that he would like to have dinner with Jesus Christ, Ronald Reagan, and Lady GaGa.

Just thought I‘d toss that in for no particular reason.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.