The Connecticut Insurance Department opened its second investigation in a week into why homeowners with crumbling foundations are receiving non-renewal notices on from their homeowners policy insurers.
The latest investigation opened on Tuesday comes after two homeowners filed complaints that their insurer is dropping them specifically because of cracking in the foundation. Such notices are forbidden under an October 2015 order by then-Insurance Commissioner Katherine Wade.
The Insurance Department announced the investigation in a release:
The Connecticut Insurance Department has recently been contacted by consumers who have been notified by one insurance carrier regarding a potential non-renewal of coverage.
These notices explicitly cited reasons directly related to crumbling foundations in violation of long standing Department direction to the industry. The Department is working with this one carrier to reverse the nonrenewals, understand why the carrier has issued non-renewals directly related to crumbling foundations, and ensure that affected homeowners continue to be protected from being cancelled or non-renewed on the basis of having a crumbling foundation.
Insurance Commissioner-designate Mais stated:
“Under no circumstances is a carrier writing homeowners or condominium insurance in Connecticut allowed to non-renew or cancel a policy as a result of a foundation found to be crumbling or deteriorating. The Insurance Department stands ready to help anybody if they encounter an issue with their insurance company – or even just have a question. The best thing that a homeowner can do in this situation is immediately reach out to the Department’s Consumer Affairs Division so that we can investigate the matter on their behalf.”
Consumers can reach the Department’s Consumer Affairs Division by visiting the website or calling directly at 860-297-3900.
The first complaint came from Lisa Centola of Ashford. Centola received the letter from her insurer earlier this month. The reason for non-renewal was listed as “foundation cracking due to groundwater and pyrrhotite. Cause of loss due to groundwater/settling.”
Pyrrhotite is the iron-sulfide mineral found in the concrete causing hundreds, likely thousands of homes in the northeast quarter of the state to severely crack. Contractors says the only fix is to replace the concrete. The costs go into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and insurance companies say they don’t cover concrete foundation claims.
Centola said it felt like a punch in the gut because she didn’t know how she would get her home insured with a pre-exisiting condition such as this.
“My insurance is getting pulled out from under me and when my insurance gets pulled out from under me, I know it impacts my mortgage,” said Centola.” That affects my credit and everything else I will do from now going forward.”
Centola said the Insurance Department responded to her complaint the next day. It led to another letter from her insurer, stating, “Please note no official non-renewal notice was sent to the insured so there is no proof of mailing”.
She isn’t the only person who got the letter from the insurer.
Greg and Regina Bladek from Stafford Springs also received a non-renewal cancellation notice last week. The reason stated in their letter was “foundation cracking.” They said their claim was denied and the insurer was demanding the couple replace their concrete foundation by September or risk being cancelled.
“We try the best we can,” said Greg Bladek. “We don’t have any funds so we can’t do this on our own and we need some help from the state to fix the problem.”
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Bladek said if he loses insurance, he may need to walk away from the home he’s lived in for nearly 20 years.
“In worst case scenario, we will just abandon the house, move out and that will be it probably,” said Bladek. “Lose everything we got over here and just move on.”
Both families praised the Connecticut Insurance Department for the quick responses to their complaints. They’ve been told they will not lose their insurance.
Gerard O’Sullivan, the Director of the Dept. of Insurance Consumer Affairs Division, said the companies acknowledged making a mistake by sending out the letters. He stressed that any homeowners who get non-renewal or cancellation notices should contact them so they can look into it.
“This has been in place since October 2015 and this is the first time we’ve been seeing this action,” O’Sullivan told News 8’s George Colli. “Like anything else, people do make mistakes, so we’re trying to see why that happened and make sure all them are corrected and make it doesn’t happen in the future.”
Last week, the founder and president of a coalition of homeowners affected by crumbling foundations also received a non-renewal notice.
Tim Heim filed a complaint because his policy was being cancelled because his “agent no longer represents the insurer.” After an investigation was opened by the Insurance Department, Heim was told he could transfer his policy to another agent that represents his insurer.