Citizens' reinspection company sued: Woman claims insurance rate hike based on false report

TEQUESTA, Fla. - Stephanie Ritchie has lived in her modest home in Tequesta since 2009.

Her mother lived there before her.

A new roof was put on after Hurricane Wilma, and there are shutters. But when Ritchie got her new homeowners policy, it cost twice as much.

She was told she needed her home reinspected.  Someone from Mueller Inspection Services came by.

"They weren't there very long.  He pretty much sat in his truck.  We were waiting for him to knock on the door.  He never did, Ritchie said Wednesday.

After the reinspection, Ritchie was stunned to find out all of her hurricane discounts had been taken away. "Everything that had passed before had now failed."

Ritchie has now filed a lawsuit against Mueller. "The point here is that nothing had changed between the original inspection in 2011 and the reinspection in 2012," said Ritchie's attorney Brian Smith.

Citizens' reinspection program has been around for two years.

Ritchie's neighbor, and fellow Citizens' policy holder Remo Chiurato, had a reinspection just a month after his most recent inspection.

"I was very surprised. You'd think they had some kind of regulation," said Chiurato.
Unlike Ritchie, Chiurato did not lose any hurricane discounts.

Ritchie's attorney says his office has been getting a lot of calls today.  He believes the reinspections are a way for Citizens to boost its bottom line.

"It's our understanding and belief that the companies are under order to return reports that are unfavorable and permit for the removal of the credits thus allowing Citizens to raise the rates more than the 10-percent cap they're restricted to," said Smith.

 A Mueller spokesman said it can't comment under a confidentiality agreement it has with Citizens.

A Citizens spokeswoman said simply that they are not part of the suit.

On the home page of Citizens' website, there is a link with a number, 888-685-1555, where you can dispute your wind mitigation results.

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