SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – What happens when your property insurer goes out of business?
It is happening quite a bit in Florida and is leading to all policyholders paying more.
The Florida Insurance Guaranty is adding a 1% assessment to policyholders starting in October to cover claims for insolvent companies.
A Seminole County couple has lived without a fully functioning kitchen for three years because their insurer went out of business.
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Sandra Braga Alfonso said what started as a leak under her sink has turned into a three-year nightmare.
She said there was already a fight with her insurer to pay out the claim, but then the company went under and it got worse.
Alfonso has a fridge and an oven but is missing lower cabinets, a stove, her normal sink, and a dishwasher.
“It has been a total nightmare,” Alfonso said.
It started in December of 2019 with a leak under her sink, she said.
She eventually discovered water in all her lower cabinets and in the sheetrock behind the cabinets, she said.
“The insurance company gave us approval to rip everything out that was damaged and now they don’t want to pay to put it back in,” Alfonso said.
The insurance company cut a check for $4,800, she said.
Of that $4,300 went to water mitigation to prevent mold. That left about $500, not nearly enough to replace her kitchen, she said.
“We’ve tried to settle, go to mediation, everything,” she said.
Finally, Alfonso and her husband filed a lawsuit against her insurer, but after two years of hearings and motions and waiting for a court date, her insurer went out of business.
She was with Capitol Insurance, but according to the Florida Department of Financial Services, Capitol was merged into Southern Fidelity, which is now one of 14 companies in liquidation.
“I’m over it. I just want my kitchen. I just want to be able to live again. I love to cook, and I can’t,” Alfonso said.
In the last year, Florida lawmakers have had three special legislative sessions to deal with Florida’s property insurance crises.
News 6 asked Alfonso if she thinks anything is being done in Tallahassee to help consumers with their insurance issues.
“No, it’s all for the insurance company,” she said.
One of the biggest moves made in Tallahassee over the last year is the legislature doing away with what is referred to as “one-way attorney’s fees.”
That means if you sued your insurer over a claim and won, the insurance company had to pay your attorney’s fees. Without it, Alfonso said she would never have been able to sue her insurer even though in her case, it didn’t do any good.
“No. My husband’s retired. He’s on disability and he’s retired we’re on a fixed income,” Alfonso said.
Alfonso has now turned to the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, which handles the claims of insolvent property and casualty insurance companies.
They are still negotiating the amount it will take to fix her kitchen — more than three years later.
“I owned my first home when I was 20-something years old,” Alfonso said. “I’ve been paying my insurance premiums since I’m like 25, never filed a claim and look where I am now,” Alfonso said.
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