Friday, April 20, 2018
Opinion

Hello, Liberty Mutual? You're fired!

Think of this as my inner Mitt Romney moment. I fired somebody. And it felt good. I liked it. I liked it very much.

For 20 years, I've lived in the same house, with the same Liberty Mutual homeowner's policy. I've never filed a claim. I don't live in a flood zone or sinkhole region. I've been a wonderful customer — thousands of dollars in premiums paid. Not a penny to settle a claim. So much for loyalty.

Six months ago, Liberty Mutual gave me the bum's rush and canceled us. Like so many insurance companies, Liberty Mutual was reducing its exposure in Florida. After all, if you have to have insurance there is always the possibility that after paying out the wazoo for the privilege of being insured by a company like Liberty Mutual, they might actually have to provide some customer service by paying a claim. Oh dear.

What kind of business can stay in business by conducting the business they are in? So it was buh-bye. Cue Nightmare On Elm Street.

Since I hadn't been in the market for homeowner's insurance for two decades, I naively assumed there would be no problem finding a replacement policy. No claims. No sinkholes. No floods. Seemed like a pretty good risk to me. I was so terribly wrong.

It seems, based on my experience over the past six months, that obtaining homeowner's insurance is a piece of cake in Florida — IF — one lives 1,500 feet above sea level, in a 10-foot-thick reinforced concrete underground bunker — built next year.

Other than that you're toast. Oh that's not to say I didn't get plenty of offers from various carriers — more often than not for premiums well above what I had been paying to those crybabies at Liberty Mutual. You would have thought my house was Monticello. So you know where this is going, don't you?

Yes Bunky, we soon found ourselves on the government-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. train.

The bad news is the business model at Citizens seems to be to make your life an endless, unrelenting hell of minutiae, perhaps in the hope you'll get your insurance elsewhere.

It's not such a terrible concept, if only there were other carriers interested in selling you something less than a usurious homeowner's policy that makes a mob loan look downright charitable.

The good news is at least we were able to become one of 1.4 million thrilled Floridians drawn into the warm embrace of Citizens after jumping through more hoops than one of Siegfried & Roy's critters.

As governor, Charlie Crist once argued if insurance companies weren't willing to write homeowner policies in Florida, then they couldn't sell other forms of insurance such as auto coverage. On this point, at least, Crist was a visionary genius. The idea, of course, went nowhere in a state where the Legislature is a wholly owned subsidiary of business interests.

At last, it was payback time. If Liberty Mutual wasn't interested in insuring my house, then I wasn't interested in having the company insure our cars. I had secured other auto insurance, at a cheaper rate.

I had waited six months to make this call. Liberty Mutual? You're fired. And I liked it very much. About the only thing that took some joy out of the call was how understanding the Liberty Mutual agent was. A pinch of groveling would have been nice.

I know I am but a mere hair ball under Liberty Mutual's couch.

Still, it was the principle of the thing — one tiny gesture of venting consumer discontent. And it felt good.

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