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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

No coincidence at all.

From the St. Petersburg Times-

Frank Pallini had his suspicions, but he took the gamble anyway.

The day Pallini canceled his auto insurance with Liberty Mutual so he could save nearly $1,000 by going with another company, he joked to his wife, "You watch, Liberty Mutual is going to cancel our homeowners policy."

About a month later, that's exactly what happened.

Pallini, a 52-year-old St. Petersburg real estate consultant, was notified last week that the homeowners policy he has had with Liberty Mutual for 17 years would not be renewed, even though it is not up for renewal until late August.

Pallini's dilemma spotlights the question of whether property insurers can essentially hold a policyholder hostage by threatening, either directly or indirectly, to cancel a homeowners policy if an auto policy is dropped.

The question becomes even more important as Florida's property insurance market continues to dry up while the auto market becomes more competitive, and as auto-only insurers make a frontal assault for more business.

Pallini says he never got a solid reason from Liberty Mutual why he was dropped. But he suspects he was being punished by the company. His crime: disloyalty.

In one of his conversations with a Liberty Mutual representative before he was dropped, Pallini said the agent told him he would be "more susceptible to being canceled" if he moved his auto policy to another company.

"She didn't say I would be canceled," Pallini said, referring to the agent, "but the inference was clear."

Because his home was built in 1965 and is not far from Tampa Bay, Pallini's only alternative now is Citizens Property Insurance, the state insurer of last resort. His property insurance will more than double to about $3,000, wiping out any savings he'll get from the cheaper auto policy.

Florida law prohibits insurance companies from tying one line of business, such as homeowners insurance, to another, such as auto.

But how often that happens is difficult to say.

"We've always taken the position that state law prohibits a carrier from threatening to pull coverage based on another insurance product being purchased," said Bob Lotane, a spokesman for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

"But in reality, we don't have blinders on. Do carriers consider auto in underwriting homeowners? They probably do. But to come out and threaten someone, that's prohibited by statute."

There are no set penalties for violating the statue, although regulators could impose a fine.
So basically you have a teethless law and the insurance companies take advantage of it. As my father used to say- "You can't beat lawyers, banks or insurance companies."

Maybe Governor elect Charlie Crist and the State legislature will fix this loophole the next time the later meets. For some reason I don't see it happening. First because insurance companies donate heavily to both parties, secondly because companies like Liberty Mutual can blackmail the state by threatening to stop doing business in Florida entirely.

In other words, Florida residents will continue to get screwed.

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