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My Homesite Homeowners Insurance Nightmare
Questionable Retention Tactics
Negative consumer reviews are more prevalent than positive reviews. This article is one of millions that describe negative experiences with a business entity with the sole intention of informing fellow consumers to be weary of a company because of its questionable business practices. My experience with Homesite Homeowners Insurance Company an affiliate of Progressive Auto Insurance Company was an experience that began as a positive buying experience and ended with a very negative customer service experience. The product and services described are about Progressive Home Advantage homeowners insurance program.
As with any other company, the best and brightest employees are the sales agents. Their primary function is to sell a product or service by providing information about products and services in a friendly and informative manner to facilitate a sale. Once a customer is satisfied with the presentation and the information about a product or a service, they purchase the product or service with the expectation that they will receive the same service from the company in the future. In my case, this expectation was not met.
Homesite sales agents did an excellent job selling Homesite as a company that appears to provide excellent customer service. I was in awe at the level of satisfaction I experienced after buying homeowners insurance from Homesite. I was quick to talk about how great the sales agent was during the purchasing experience. My positive attitude would last for about a year.
Rewarding Loyal Customers
Progressive rewards its loyal customers by reducing automobile insurance rates every year. Progressive customers such as myself assume that Homesite would share the same values and reward its customers with a similar rate decrease when a policy is renewed. Unlike Progressive, Homesite rewards its customers even those who have not filed a claim during the past year by increasing annual premiums by 36% every year. It is understandable that an insurance company that has had to pay out millions in claims during a year would increase premiums to made up for losses, but Homesite is the leader in premium increases.
On a side note, they are also one of the leading companies to deny claims, underpay homeowners for damages to their home, and cancel homeowners policies to avoid paying a claim. There are thousands of homeowners who held policies with Homesite for five or more years who have paid their premiums faithfully who have had their first claim denied and their policies cancelled after a total loss from a fire or a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina.
One case in point was a woman in New Orleans whose home was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. Her home was struck by two other homes after flood waters tore them from their foundations causing them to crash into her home. Homesite denied her claim on the basis that her home was destroyed by flood waters and she did not have flood insurance. The home in question was video taped as it was destroyed not by flood waters but by the impact from other two houses colliding with it. Her claim was denied and her policy was cancelled. To make matters worse all three of these homes were covered by homeowners policies underwritten by Homesite. The home owners had to sue Homesite to try to recover their losses (Simmons vs. Homesite Insurance Company, June 28, 2012).
Slow Claims Service And Inept Claims Adjusters
In June of 2008 I filed my first claim with Homesite after a hailstorm struck and damaged my home and two of my automobiles. I contacted Progressive to file a claim, during that call I discovered that Progressive would not be handling the claim on my home. After completing the claim for my vehicles, I was transferred to Homesite to file a homeowners claim. the claims representative was friendly and informative, she took my information and provided me with a claim number, the name of my assigned adjuster, and his telephone number. She also informed me that it may be a few days before I am contacted by this adjuster due to a high volume of claims being filed in my area.
My claims adjuster contacted me forty-two business days after I filed my claim. My initial contact with him was very negative and stand-offish. He introduced himself and immediately instructed me to stop calling his office, he was tired of receiving my messages for him to call me , he was very busy with other claims. He then set an appointment to assess the damage to my home for the following Wednesday. When asked what time he was going to come, he told me around noon and that I did not need to worry about being present. he then assured me that he was very good at what he does and that he preferred to not have anyone there to slow him down, especially during that point in time where he had hundreds of homes to deal with at once.
I stayed home from work the following Wednesday so I could be present for the assessment. I was home from Tuesday evening until Thursday morning that week waiting for the adjuster to come to the house. the adjuster never arrived for his appointment. He did not call the day of the appointment or return subsequent phone calls for twelve business days. When he did call me back, he announced who he was and that he had completed my assessment and approved my claim. He then indicated that I was going to get my claim check and report in the mail within the next few days.
I was confused about how he managed to complete an assessment and close a claim without ever coming to the property to inspect the damage. When I questioned him about the date and time he came to the property, he told me he did not know off hand, but that information would be listed in his report. He then said he had to go because he has several other claims he is working an and time is of the essence.
Four days later I received the report and a check for $800 in the mail. After reading through the report, he indicated that the property was inspected the Wednesday he had set the original appointment. To make sure I was not mistaken about this man never showing up for the appointment, I checked the footage from my security cameras to see when he actually came to inspect the property. At no time did anyone enter my property to inspect my home. I did observe an unmarked white Dodge van stop in front of my home and then drive down the alley on the west side of the house and stop for about fifteen seconds on the recordings, but the driver of the van never left the vehicle and this incident took place six days after the scheduled appointment. The view of my home is obscured by a seven foot fence on the west side of the property, making it impossible for anyone to view the entire west side of my home.
The report included a diagram of a home indicating the damage to the roof and gutters. The only problem with the diagram was that it was not an accurate diagram of my home. It only depicted the main section of the home, it did not include the porch or adjacent sun room on the north side of the home or the three room section on the south side of the home. The area where the roof damage indicated on the claim was located. The adjuster indicated that most of the damage was not covered and I received $800 for $6300 worth of repairs.
I appealed this claim on the basis that the adjuster did not inspect the property properly and that his description of the property was not an accurate description of my property. I included with my appeal a copy of his report, a copy of the blueprints for my home, a copy of my security camera footage for the day of my appointment and the day the unmarked van drove past the property. The appeal was sent from the Homesite office in Boston back to the adjusters office in Akron, Ohio and given to the same man who completed my claim. His response to my appeal was a phone call to me where he told me that he had received my appeal and that he was going to deny the appeal. To quote Steve A. from the Homesite adjusters office in Akron, Ohio, his response was, "I am the first and last word when it comes to a claim, you can accept the $800 I sent you or I will go back into the system and deny the whole claim". I accepted the $800.
My Second Homesite Homeowners Policy
I purchased a second policy from Homesite Home Owners Insurance Company for the same reason, I purchased my first policy, low cost and low deductibles compared to other homeowner insurance companies. The same applied to the coverages for the dwelling and the contents of my home. The premium for the first year was only $624, less than half the cost of the next lowest competitor. As before the agent selling me the insurance products was friendly and was eager to answer my questions and sell me any coverage that I asked for. I was initially happy with the service I received during the purchase of this policy.
As with my other policy, the annual premium increased the second year 36%. The premium for the third year was 42% with an additional deduction of $2700 for wind and hail damage that would be charge separately from the standard deductible for a loss to the property. It was at this time that I decided that I was no longer willing to stay with Homesite, they were no longer competitive with other insurance carriers.
Telling Me What I Want To Hear
While I was getting the quote for my second home, I asked the agent if I needed to modify he homeowners policy for my first home since I was going to be moving out of the home and into my second home. I explained to the agent that I was not sure if I was going to put my first home up for sale or if I was going to rent the home. Regardless of my decision, I knew during that conversation that my first home was going to vacant for a few months before we made our final decision as to what we were going to do with our first home. The agent indicated that we should be fine with our current coverage, but he stated that he would check on it and get back with me. Two days later I received an E-mail indicating that I did not need to modify the existing policy on my first home, I was "Good to go".
Nine months later after a claim for storm damage was denied, a customer service representative informed me that the damage, which was never inspected by an adjuster, but denied by the same adjuster as before I might add. when I questioned the decision, the customer service agent asked me what my mailing address was. After telling her my current address, she indicated that she was going to cancel the policy on my first home effective immediately because my first home was no longer my primary residence. When I told her that she was mistaken, she told me that the address I had on file does not match the address I am currently residing at and that I cannot have homeowners insurance on a home I do not live in. II must add that she indicated that she did not have any record of an address change and she indicated that our bills were still being sent to our old address. Again I told her she was mistaken, but in this case she was right sort of. All of the documents concerning the policy for my first home were sent to my new address, I faxed her a copy of the documents that had our new address as our address on record with them. We also informed Progressive of our move because Progressive bills us and then sends the payment to Homesite. It is not my fault that Progressive and Homesite do not communicate with one another or that they do not have a linked data system. Regardless of the issue, my policy was cancelled that day. However...
Two days later I received two letters in the mail and a phone call from Homesite. one letter indicated that my policy was cancelled, and the other indicated that the policy was reinstated. The telephone call from Homesite was from the underwriting department who indicated that they would make provisions for me and that my policy would be reinstated, with a stipulation. i have a valid policy, but I do not have any coverage. When asked to clarify the statement, I was told that I had a valid policy on paper, but if I filed any claims, they would be denied. Why would they do this? Money, I still had almost two months remaining on the policy for the current year, and I had already sent the following years payment in as soon as I received the renewal bill, 52 days before it was due. Homesite did not want to refund the premium.
After thanking the underwriting representative, I informed him that I had already purchased a new policy for my property the day before about an hour after I was told the policy was cancelled. He then indicated to me that I would have to provide them with proof of a new policy and that I was required to have that policy in force until the new policy was verified. That policy was cancelled and reinstated five times during the eight months it took for Homesite to refund my premium. They tried to prorate the renewal premium that was sent to them 52 days in advance, claiming that it is their policy to not give refunds. In the end, I did receive a full refund for the renewal payment and the remainder of the cancelled year premium.
I chose to not renew the policy for the third year on my new home, I found a less expensive policy with a much better rated insurance company before my policy expired. Remembering he initial issues with Homsite, I took painstaking steps to insure that my Homesite policy was cancelled by sending certified letters to both Progressive and Homesite as well as calling both entities to verify the account was closed for several weeks after he last letter was received indicating that the policy was cancelled. This policy would be reinstated four times before I was reassured that it was cancelled both verbally and in writing.
After a few months, I started receiving odd e-mails and paper mailings from Progressive concerning Homesite. I called Progressive to let them know that I was no longer insured by Homesite and that I no longer wanted to receive any type of advertisements that mentioned Homesite. I went as far as saying that Homesite gives Progressive a bad name and that Progressive should have never associated themselves with Homesite.
In February 2013, I received a notice in the mail that I needed t fill out a home assessment form for an independent reviewer for Homesite. The rational was that Homesite was seeking to gather detailed information about insured properties to be able to estimate the costs of repairing or replacing a home or building. Thinking that there was a mistake somewhere, I called the company sending the document and told them that I was not going to be participating because i was no longer insured by Homesite. The woman who took my call assured me that there was no mistake, I was still a Homsite customer and if I did not fill out the forms, they were going to send someone out to my home for an inspection.
I called Homesite after hanging up with the other company performing the inspections to verify that my Homesite account was still cancelled. While I was doing that I was logging into the Homesite website and checking the online account to verify that it was still cancelled. I could not access the account on-line, the website indicated that the account was closed. My next call was to Progressive, because if there is policy in force, someone has to pay for it, and I had not paid Progressive to renew the policy for my second home.
The Progressive representative informed me that the policy had been renewed in July of 2012 and that the bill was sent to the mortgage escrow account for the past nine months. Homesite had lied to me when I called them and told me that I did not have an active policy with them and now I was extremely angry. After calling the mortgage holder, I was informed that I had not paid attention to my mortgage terms, which required me to have my homeowners insurance billed through my escrow account. My ignorance of my mortgage terms allowed Homesite to do an end run on me and collect on a policy that was not renewed. They had already sent me my renewal contract and was not required to send me additional documentation until the next renewal. Homesite conveniently had no record of any contact or notarized certified letters being sent to them, nor did they have any record of my new insurance company sending them documentation of my new policy.
My mortgage holder claimed to not know that there were two homeowners policies in force for the same property, but when he looked up the account, he read off the information for both insurance carriers. He just paid the bill and did not look at the account or question why there were two insurance policies listed on the account. My mistake was that I did not set up the new policy to be paid through the escrow account as indicated in my contract, I paid the new homeowners policy upfront when I purchased the policy.
Resolution Of The Issue With Homesite
I did not contact Homesite after I found out from Progressive that I still have a policy in force. I contacted Progressive about not renewing the policy and sent them the same letter that I had sent to Homesite, a document that they still had on file. Progressive was told by Homesite that the policy had lapsed due to non-payment and that our mortgage terms indicated that we pay via escrow and Progressive complied based on the documentation provided by Homesite. I had the new insurance carrier send proof of insurance to Progressive, who cancelled the policy and sent us a refund of all money paid to them within four days after our discovery.
If you are insured with Homesite, count on having a difficult time cancelling or not renewing a policy. Make sure you know the terms of your mortgage when you change insurance carriers. If you must pay homeowners insurance through escrow, when you change carriers, make sure you let them know that you need to have your premium paid by billing the escrow account. Contact your mortgage holder and let them know you have changed insurance companies and that they need to call the new insurance carrier to set up escrow payments. Have your new carrier send multiple faxes of Homesite for at least a week straight as Homesite has only one fax number for the entire company. Homesite will claim to have never received the faxed documents or mailed documents to include certified mail. have your new insurance carrier contact your mortgage holder to verify proof of insurance and to set up escrow account billing. Creating redundancy will protect you from what happened to me.
My final word of advice is to shop around before you make your homeowners or renters insurance choice. Homesite has good rates initially, but their rates increase annually and after two years they are no longer competitive with other insurance companies such as Allstate, State Farm, Liberty Mutual, Farmers, or Erie Insurance Company. Progressive no longer utilizes Homesite in the State of Ohio, they use another affiliate company called ASI. I have had excellent service from Progressive Automobile Insurance Company, Homesite almost caused me to change auto insurance carriers as well. Homesite will delay a claim and most often do not inspect property in person or with the customer or their contractor. The most common payments for a claim are in the amount of $800 and $1800 after the $1000 deductible is subtracted from the payout. If you have a theft or loss of personal property due fire or weather (usually termed as acts of god), you will need to provide Homesite with a receipt of all items lost and they will demand the original receipt. If you keep your receipts, put them in a safety deposit box or a fireproof safe because without them Homesite will not replace the item. Homesite will lose your receipts at least two times, so do not send the original receipt, make three or four copies of receipts as well as a video tape of your property that shows all valuables and serial numbers of possible.
I am one of thousands of dissatisfied Homesite customers. I am sure there are just as many satisfied customers, but with exception of the purchase of my Homesite policies my experience with Homesite has been negative in every aspect. I am not advocating or recomending any other insurance carriers, I have two different carriers for my two homes, because my need could not be met by any single carrier at a price that I am willing to pay or can afford, especially when annual premiums increase every year even though there was no claims filed within the past three years.