Monday, October 11, 2010

Insurance oddities

I got a somewhat startling letter from my insurance company recently - they had sent some inspector to my house and noticed some damage to an exterior fence wall and decided that meant I wasn't on top of house maintenance and if I didn't get the damage repaired by December, they would terminate my policy. Surprised, I put things in motion to fix this, and then received another, even more unsettling letter stating that in fact my policy was being terminated come December.

My agent assures me that upon repairing the fence wall, the policy will in fact be reinstated and everything will be fine. There are a number of things that bothers me about this is situation. Here's the whole story:

1. A couple of years ago, a large portion of stucco fell off of the fence wall. In addition, somebody pried the latch off of the shed behind my house (storage and laundry). I suspect that these events were related - that vandals broke the latch and kicked at the wall, knocking down the stucco. The stucco that fell was in a large chunk, not bit by bit, like what would happen over time - compared to other stucco repair I need to do around my house.

2. I didn't do anything about this because nothing was stolen or anything, I highly suspected someone walking down the alley simply had 5 minutes of fun at the expense of my wall and door and left, never to be seen again. Since it was an exterior fence wall with the damage on the side facing the back yard where noone really sees it, I didn't bother taking the effort or expense to get it fixed, outside of blocking off the door to the shed with a bookshelf that was inside the shed (which is probably more substantial than the thin wooden door itself).

3. After receiving this letter from the insurance company, I starting looking into repairs, and also looked into making an insurance claim for vandalism, which is supposed to be covered by my insurance. I know I have more maintenance to do than just fixing the damage from vandalism, but I wasn't asking for anything for that, I was just claiming the vandalism and hoping they would give me some money for the repairs, to which I would add money to do the maintenance.

4. The insurance company assigned an adjuster to come take a look, and in our initial conversation he said that he would be going out right away (that day) to take a look at the situation and then he would give me a call. He made a point to say that the number he was calling from was his cell phone, and that I could reach him on it anytime. Well, I don't know when exactly he came out to my place to take a look, because not only did he not call, but he did not answer any of my calls (once per day), nor reply to any of my messages. When the 2nd unsettling letter arrived, I spoke to my Insurance Agent about it, and mentioned that the Adjuster hadn't been in contact for over a week, and the Agent said he'd try to contact him as well. This was something of a big deal, because I'd lined up someone to do the repair, and they had a timing window where they could jump right on it, but I couldn't have them do that until the insurance guy came out! Maybe the Agent had some luck contacting the adjuster because a day or so later I got a call - they adjuster had not been out yet. Again he said that he would jump right on this and get back to me right away. Again I called him almost every day for a week before I finally got in touch with him again.

5. The Adjuster informed me, basically, that he had been out to see the damage, and had to discuss it with his boss or whatever. A couple days later, I finally got an answer from him, which was basically this: "Because it is so old, we're not going to do anything."

Now here's my beef with that. If I had called them up the day after it happened (about 2 years ago), would they have paid out some amount of money on my claim?

IF YES: What is different now? I'm only asking for that same amount of money they would have given me back then. I don't see what difference it makes that time has passed.

IF NO: Then what the hell am I paying insurance premiums for? If my policy lists vandalism, then I expect to be able to make a claim when being a victim of vandalism and receive money to repair the vandalism. I've had my car broken into - even had a car stolen, damaged, and the cops found it behind a dumpster - and I have not made any claim against my insurance. I have been paying premiums for 10 years on my home insurance without fail, without a late payment, without as much as a phone call. And now the one time I try to make a claim, they simply tell me "meh, we're not interested."

This does not inspire confidence in me at all. It makes me feel like I should simply not bother carrying insurance at all, but that's kind of out of the question because there's always that chance a semi truck will crash through my house while I'm on vacation (this exact thing happened to a house across the street a few years ago - we heard the crash and ran outside to see the truck literally in the bathroom of the house. I believe the driver died.)

It also makes me kind of want to shop around for another insurance company, but frankly that's a lot of work, and there's no guarantee that they'll be any better when it comes time to make a claim. Just like any subscription service, American Family has locked up my business because it's inconvenient for me to change companies, and because of that they seem to really not care about actually providing any service whatsoever. And because it's not feasible to risk severe damage to my house - which is the bulk of my net worth - I feel like there's little I can do about it.

Fucking lame.

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