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ACME. A name you can trust!
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I'm posting this not only to ask your opinion of what I should do or expect to happen, but as a warning for others to keep an eye on  your policy, especially the part that describes your property details. I'm not going to name the company just now, because this is an ongoing concern and don't want them to find out about this and have what is so far a cooperative inquiry become adversarial. So let's just call them ACME. They are a well regarded company, and while their rates aren't the best in the industry, they are known for their service and commitment to their customers.

Before someone gives me a Finance "you're a dumbass" response, I acknowledge up-front that I'm partly to blame here (and I've learned a life lesson) but I think ACME needs to shoulder some of the responsibility as well. 

ETA:  Title updated.  They had their chances (plural) but have consistently failed to respond to inquries. 

So this all stared when a neighbor in my development posted a message on our Facebook group asking if anyone else used ACME and what they thought of their homeowner rates. I sent her a PM and she showed me some of her research and at some point we compared our premiums and I was floored to see mine was almost twice as much as hers. I knew something had to be wrong, because we have nearly identical properties.  While I knew ACME couldn't pull up her policy to compare due to privacy concerns, I called them to review my policy. The CSR started to try and see if she could find some discounts for having multiple products and seemed really proud when she told me she could lower my bill by $40. Needless to say I was not thrilled. When she started to give me an Insurance 101 lecture about market conditions, cost of materials, etc. (including asking me why I didn't read the entire policy ever year) I stopped her and asked if there was a summary sheet available, like you would see on a HUD1 for a mortgage. I wanted to compare mine to my neighbors to do an apples-to-apples comparison. Indeed there is and it's called the Declarations Page and the CSR told me how to find it online.

I do recall looking at the declarations page over the years and noticed my rates increasing, however didn't think much of it. My taxes were increasing by a similar percentage and just assumed market forces were in play. Besides, I wasn't dealing with a company like Comcast. This is ACME we're talking about.

So my neighbor was kind enough to share her declaration page with me and I quickly discovered that my premium was almost double because my dwelling "rebuild" value was almost twice as hers. We were both a bit nervous because either she was under-insured or I was over-insured. She then suggested I go through the online policy update wizard and I immediately found the problem. My current policy showed I had more than 1,000 sq ft than hers (once again, we have nearly identical units).

Knowing this was out of the regular CSR's wheelhouse I contacted the CEO's office and I explained the gaffe and asked them to start an investigation to find when (and how) the problem occurred. The gentleman helping me found the original appraisal which was used when I bought my house which showed the correct square footage.  He said this would have been the square footage used for the first year's premium.  As they only keep a certain number of years of records in their system, he couldn't find when the increase occurred, but he is going to try access their archives.

Yes, I could have reviewed the entire packet each year and might have found the error. But its so full of legalese that practically no one reads it, which is why most states (if not all) requires the declarations page. Unfortunately basic information such as sq footage, # of rooms, bathrooms etc is not on that page but elsewhere in the policy. So you should not only review the front page, but verify that your basic information is correct.

Assuming we can find out when the square footage error occurred I'm hoping they will do the right thing and ask the underwriters to figure out what my premium should have been for each year since the error and cut me a check or the difference. What options would I have if they tell me to go pound sand? Yes, I would obviously take my business elsewhere, but I'd rather get my money back.

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Ommissioner is exactly right in OP's case!

doveroftke (Aug. 23, 2016 @ 12:54p) |

Unfortunately the Declarations page, doesn't contain this information. However one would expect any of this to change if... (more)

fasttimes (Aug. 23, 2016 @ 12:57p) |

ANOTHER UPDATE: USAA has finally responded to me, and they appear to be taking steps to issue a refund. It's a little c... (more)

fasttimes (Aug. 24, 2016 @ 11:57p) |

At some point ACME incorrectly increased the square footage of my house in their records which drastically increased my premium.  As this information is not on the summary page of the policy, I did not detect the error until recently.  I'm trying to find out how I can get my money back.
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I really don't think you have any recourse at this point. They can say that you share the responsibility to read and understand your policy and to point out any mistakes.

I just did a review with my agent for my homeowners insurance as it has been 20 years. He offered to come to my house, take measurements and pictures. After he did so we made some adjustments to get me in line with what I should have. I would suggest that you do the same as then it is documented.

It's worth a compliant to your state's insurance ommissioner if thy won't do anything,

Had you had a total loss in the past few years, would they've been on the hook to rebuild you a house with an extra 1000 sq ft?

If not, I think they owe you a refund.

Find who else in your circle of family and friends uses the same insurance company and ask them to verify as well. If they did it to you, they may have done it to others and it may reveal fraudulent practices. What is the risk of sharing the name of the company?

Your agent probably made the error when he/she wrote the policy. From the insurer's perspective, they provided the coverage you paid for, so they probably aren't obligated to offer you a refund. (As someone pointed out, some states have "valued policy laws" that require the insurer to pay you the face value of your policy in the event of a total loss, which would mean you were set for a windfall if your house was destroyed..) Perhaps, though, the insurer will decide to offer you a partial refund in the interest of customer service if they identify that the policy should have been initially written at a lower value, and/or if they determine that they had minimal or no additional exposure from the higher limit of coverage that was on your policy.

You don't say how much the premium difference is, but you imply it is a lot. Often, a 1,000 square foot difference wouldn't cause a huge difference in price. So, other factors might be involved. Not sure if you have prior homeowners' claims, what your credit is like, etc., but you might be paying a higher premium for the same coverage even without the square footage/property value issue.

The issue is that you were insured for X amount, even though it should have been Y. Its going to be hard to get them to give you a refund. Had your house burned down, you would have been allowed to spend X to fix your house.

With USAA, you can see all those numbers. You can even under-insure yourself, ie lower the amount of coverage to 80% of their estimate..

stanolshefski said:   It's worth a compliant to your state's insurance ommissioner if thy won't do anything,
  PLEASE DO THIS NOW for three things:

  1. Larger benefit of public (once you complain, I'm guessing it's a public record)
  2. Motivation for ACME to satisfy you
  3. I want to say They are doing this on purpose to many customers.......it's not a fat fingering issue....definitely not..... a fat fingering would generally add a zero to the end, or a decimal , stuff like that......yours is a serious issue that has been intentionally and deliberately done to bump you your footage by a THOUSAND feet

defjukie said:   Had you had a total loss in the past few years, would they've been on the hook to rebuild you a house with an extra 1000 sq ft?

If not, I think they owe you a refund.


Probably depends on the policy. In my HO policy, it says that they will pay to replace with a house of similar construction and size up to the policy limit, but I don't have specific measurements written into the policy declarations (they used them to calculate the rebuild value when I first purchased it, but that was it). My guess is that an appraiser would come out, see that the house was (say) 2000 sq. ft. instead of the insured 3000 sq. ft. (and was documented that way with the local government), and only offer to rebuild that.

On the other hand, even if they did offer a bigger replacement house, OP may not be able to build one. 1000 sq foot is not a small amount of extra space. There might not be enough room to build that much extra space or it may not be allowed (or it may make the house completely different than everything around it, also not necessarily a good idea).

Isn't it fairly common knowledge that you should shop around your home and auto insurance every few years to get competitive rates? 

dealgain said:   .......it's not a fat fingering issue....definitely not..... a fat fingering would generally add a zero to the end, or a decimal , stuff like that......yours is a serious issue that has been intentionally and deliberately done to bump you your footage by a THOUSAND feet
 

  I am not necessarily saying that is what happened but it could very well be a fat fingering error (if it is exactly 1000 sq ft larger). e.g. 2345 typed in as 3345 (finger pressed slightly to right of 2 which got entered as a 3).
 

dealgain said:   
stanolshefski said:   It's worth a compliant to your state's insurance ommissioner if thy won't do anything,
  PLEASE DO THIS NOW for three things:

  1. Larger benefit of public (once you complain, I'm guessing it's a public record)
  2. Motivation for ACME to satisfy you
  3. I want to say They are doing this on purpose to many customers.......it's not a fat fingering issue....definitely not..... a fat fingering would generally add a zero to the end, or a decimal , stuff like that......yours is a serious issue that has been intentionally and deliberately done to bump you your footage by a THOUSAND feet


  I can (and have) fat fingered 3400 instead of 2400 before. I think you're jumping to conclusions.

drew2money said:   The issue is that you were insured for X amount, even though it should have been Y. Its going to be hard to get them to give you a refund. Had your house burned down, you would have been allowed to spend X to fix your house.

With USAA, you can see all those numbers. You can even under-insure yourself, ie lower the amount of coverage to 80% of their estimate..

  I'd like to know how you did this.  Online I believe 5-10% is the max you can reduce their inflated rebuild estimate.

delanok said:   
drew2money said:   The issue is that you were insured for X amount, even though it should have been Y. Its going to be hard to get them to give you a refund. Had your house burned down, you would have been allowed to spend X to fix your house.

With USAA, you can see all those numbers. You can even under-insure yourself, ie lower the amount of coverage to 80% of their estimate..

  I'd like to know how you did this.  Online I believe 5-10% is the max you can reduce their inflated rebuild estimate.

  You're correct. Online, you can only lower it to 95% of their rebuild estimate.

The easy answer is that we as consumers should post this information in some sort of website so that we can compare comparable services.

I can see where car insurance is hard to do due to credit, driver record and age variables (to name a few).

But home insurance is pretty much size, coverage, type of dwelling, flood zone and zip code. I am sure there are a few more, but not too many.

There goes a disruptive idea. Hope a fellow FWFer can monetize it. I'll take a one time 1% commission.

fasttimes said:   I do recall looking at the declarations page over the years and noticed my rates increasing, however didn't think much of it. My taxes were increasing by a similar percentage and just assumed market forces were in play.What market forces? Inflation is near 0, wages are barely rising, dollar is strong and commodities are weak. As far as I can tell, there is no justification for insurance cost increases.

Not reviewing your coverage wasn't your only mistake -- you should have shopped around.

vnuts21 said:   
dealgain said:   
stanolshefski said:   It's worth a compliant to your state's insurance ommissioner if thy won't do anything,
  PLEASE DO THIS NOW for three things:

  1. Larger benefit of public (once you complain, I'm guessing it's a public record)
  2. Motivation for ACME to satisfy you
  3. I want to say They are doing this on purpose to many customers.......it's not a fat fingering issue....definitely not..... a fat fingering would generally add a zero to the end, or a decimal , stuff like that......yours is a serious issue that has been intentionally and deliberately done to bump you your footage by a THOUSAND feet


  I can (and have) fat fingered 3400 instead of 2400 before. I think you're jumping to conclusions.

  
I agree with vnuts21.    

No reason to think this is a sinister plot versus a simple typo.
 

jerosen said:   
I agree with vnuts21.    

No reason to think this is a sinister plot versus a simple typo.

  
It's also entirely possible that a IT system or data migration occurred during that time frame, causing simple calc/translation/join/matching errors to occur. And everyone who has ever worked in IT knows how those projects turn out.

dcwilbur said:   Isn't it fairly common knowledge that you should shop around your home and auto insurance every few years to get competitive rates? 
  Rather, every time your policy is about to expire.

drobins9 said:   Your agent probably made the error when he/she wrote the policy. From the insurer's perspective, they provided the coverage you paid for, so they probably aren't obligated to offer you a refund. (As someone pointed out, some states have "valued policy laws" that require the insurer to pay you the face value of your policy in the event of a total loss, which would mean you were set for a windfall if your house was destroyed..) Perhaps, though, the insurer will decide to offer you a partial refund in the interest of customer service if they identify that the policy should have been initially written at a lower value, and/or if they determine that they had minimal or no additional exposure from the higher limit of coverage that was on your policy.

You don't say how much the premium difference is, but you imply it is a lot. Often, a 1,000 square foot difference wouldn't cause a huge difference in price. So, other factors might be involved. Not sure if you have prior homeowners' claims, what your credit is like, etc., but you might be paying a higher premium for the same coverage even without the square footage/property value issue.

  The square footage magically changed between the original policy and today.  There was no initial error.

scripta said:   
fasttimes said:   I do recall looking at the declarations page over the years and noticed my rates increasing, however didn't think much of it. My taxes were increasing by a similar percentage and just assumed market forces were in play.
What market forces? Inflation is near 0, wages are barely rising, dollar is strong and commodities are weak. As far as I can tell, there is no justification for insurance cost increases.

Not reviewing your coverage wasn't your only mistake -- you should have shopped around.

  
Oh, here are a few examples of market forces:  Hurricane Sandy was a Bonanza for both labor and materials, not to mention that effected EVERYONE'S premium.  The housing bubble wasn't  strong in my location, demand is still high, tear downs and rebuilds are commonplace. Cranes are on every horizon.  

novocane said:   
dcwilbur said:   Isn't it fairly common knowledge that you should shop around your home and auto insurance every few years to get competitive rates? 
  Rather, every time your policy is about to expire.

  When you get the renewal notice with the new premium, it is a good reminder to shop around (and if there is a significant increase in premium, a good incentive to shop around).
However, you can do this any time; not just around expiry/renewal. This may depend on state law but in all places I have lived, you can get a prorated refund of the premium if you cancel/switch during the policy period.

Curious, I looked through my package - it doesn't mention anything about sq ft anywhere.  It just has a dollar limit on structure.

bluegreenturtle said:   Curious, I looked through my package - it doesn't mention anything about sq ft anywhere.  It just has a dollar limit on structure.
  
Thats the basis for the amount, or one of them.  Look, as Rodney Dangerfield once said, "You've got to look out for number one, without stepping in number two!"

I'm far too busy to monitor every service I pay for, and yes that's on me.  I do monitor companies I don't trust (cough Comcast), but in this life we establish relationships with companies large and small.  For example my mechanic is a family run shop.  They treat my car (and money) as if it were their own.  On numerous occasions they have steered me away from high cost repairs.  There is something very satisfying about knowing that I can trust them completely.  On a professional basis, I know they take extreme pride in having earned that trust and they know damn well it's people like me that send business their way.

Though less personal, this insurance company has also earned a similar reputation.  I'm guessing many of you know who it is already.  I really do hope they do the right thing.

fasttimes said:   
bluegreenturtle said:   Curious, I looked through my package - it doesn't mention anything about sq ft anywhere.  It just has a dollar limit on structure.
  
Thats the basis for the amount, or one of them.  Look, as Rodney Dangerfield once said, "You've got to look out for number one, without stepping in number two!"

I'm far too busy to monitor every service I pay for, and yes that's on me.  I do monitor companies I don't trust (cough Comcast), but in this life we establish relationships with companies large and small.  For example my mechanic is a family run shop.  They treat my car (and money) as if it were their own.  On numerous occasions they have steered me away from high cost repairs.  There is something very satisfying about knowing that I can trust them completely.  On a professional basis, I know they take extreme pride in having earned that trust and they know damn well it's people like me that send business their way.

Though less personal, this insurance company has also earned a similar reputation.  I'm guessing many of you know who it is already.  I really do hope they do the right thing.

  
I guess what I'm saying is that my insurance company (Grange, in this case) doesn't even have a record of the sq ft of my house.  They never asked, and it's reflected nowhere in any papers.  Which makes sense - they really don't care how large or small of a house you rebuild, only how much it's going to cost them.  It seems weird that they base their cost on the sq ft of your house, which, btw, is rarely accurate - some people measure by the inside, some by the outside, some by finished space, some not.  Our county thinks our house is 1000 sq ft smaller than it really is, based on the property report. 

bluegreenturtle said:   I guess what I'm saying is that my insurance company (Grange, in this case) doesn't even have a record of the sq ft of my house.  They never asked, and it's reflected nowhere in any papers.  Which makes sense - they really don't care how large or small of a house you rebuild, only how much it's going to cost them.  It seems weird that they base their cost on the sq ft of your house, which, btw, is rarely accurate - some people measure by the inside, some by the outside, some by finished space, some not.  Our county thinks our house is 1000 sq ft smaller than it really is, based on the property report. 
 

  So what do they base the cost to rebuild upon? Sq. footage is not the only variable but should be one of the variables in estimating the cost to rebuild.

All the companies I have asked a quote for have asked for (among other things): Number of levels, Number of rooms (bedrooms, bathrooms, other rooms etc.), type of roof and foundation, type of floor (carpeted, vinyl, hardwood), square footage, enhancements (granite counter tops, upgraded cabinets etc.). In short, they use a comprehensive model to estimate the cost to rebuild.

Ok, now they aren't returning my calls. Not even the CEO's customer relation office. I'll admit I can be a downright dick on the phone, but only for companies that truly deserve it. I'm looking at you Comcast. In this case I've been reasonable and polite, but that's not going to last too much longer.

Shame on you USAA.

Saw this page and checked my policy. Found the home characteristic page at very end and confirmed my sq. footage. Did you happen to update you home characteristic online and change the sq footage by accident in the past? How much of a difference are you talking about compared to your neighbor?

How about some context?  How much is your annual premium, and how much is your neighbor with the similar property paying?

A related lesson here is to shop around for insurance at least every 2-3 years. New quotes from other insurers would have likely highlighted this issue.

fasttimes said:   Ok, now they aren't returning my calls. Not even the CEO's customer relation office. I'll admit I can be a downright dick on the phone, but only for companies that truly deserve it. I'm looking at you Comcast. In this case I've been reasonable and polite, but that's not going to last too much longer.

Shame on you USAA.


Shame on you for bad behavior. You are not entity to treat people poorly bc you feel they should take responsibility in total for an error which you certainly deserve some blame. You can vote by changing carriers.

dcwilbur said:   How about some context?  How much is your annual premium, and how much is your neighbor with the similar property paying?
  
He said that it was "twice as much" so I think we can assume it is hundreds of $ per year more.

A possibility for why the square footage increase (other than the previously mentioned fat-fingering or nefarious overcharge reason): perhaps the OP's house is listed in an internet database incorrectly.  When you search for my property address online, you see that it is almost 400 sq ft larger than what the tax records show.  At the time the house was built, they opted to finish out a large extra room, but somehow the tax records reflect the original floorplan without it. Perhaps if OP's neighborhood had options like that, the wrong sq ft is out there somewhere and USAA automatically pulled it during a property review. 

I have USAA and I'm surprised they are not offering to make this right by at least refunding the premium difference for some period of time. A couple of years ago they made a billing mistake that I *should have* caught right away but didn't notice for about 6 months, and they promptly credited me.  My billing mistake was very obvious and was right there on the monthly bill which I hadn't looked at it 6 months, just letting them charge my cc every month, so I was definitely negligent.  In OP's defense, to see the mistake on his policy you have to really search out the property details.  (although it seems that in his case it wouldn't have been a gradual increase; rather a large premium jump in the year the sq ft was changed)

So, how much are we talking? What is your before and after preiums?

While I admit that during my almost forty years with USAA, I have noticed quite a drop in their level of customer service (which appears to have coincided with the period during which they drastically opened up membership eligibility), USAA actually makes it fairly easy to look at the home characteristics of your insured dwelling and even update them online.  All you do is click on your Homeowner's Policy listed in your account summary and then click on the "Home Characteristics" tab.  You can see when it was last updated and update any item that is not up to date or accurate.

Here's what is listed under the tab on mine:
Last Updated **/**/****

About Your Home
 
Year Built (Opens Pop up Layer)   ****
Total Square Footage (Opens Pop up Layer) Includes garage square footage if there is living space above the garage. ****** sq. ft.
Number of Stories (Opens Pop up Layer)   **

 
Outside Your Home
Exterior Wall Construction Material (Opens Pop up Layer) ********
Main Home Foundation Type ********
Percentage Finished (Opens Pop up Layer) ********
Daylight Basement (Opens Pop up Layer) ********
Roof Type (Opens Pop up Layer) ********
Year Roof Installed or Replaced (Opens Pop up Layer) ********
Garage or Carport Type (Opens Pop up Layer) ********
Attached Structures ********

 
Inside Your Home
Wall Partitions Construction Materials (Opens Pop up Layer) ********
Wall Covering Materials (Opens Pop up Layer) ********
Floor Covering Materials (Opens Pop up Layer) ********
Number of Kitchens ********
Kitchen Type ********
Number of Bathrooms ********
Number of Custom (Opens Pop up Layer) Bathrooms ********
Security System (Opens Pop up Layer) ********
Fire Alarm System (Opens Pop up Layer) ********
Is there a sprinkler system that will activate during a fire emergency at this address? ********

 
Heating & Cooling
Number of Fireplaces (Opens Pop up Layer) ********
Type of Air ********
Type of Heat ********


USAA insures through various companies, so it wouldn't be at all unusual to have two people on the same street paying different rates.

dcwilbur said:   How about some context?  How much is your annual premium, and how much is your neighbor with the similar property paying?

Context is in original post.  Long story short, a neighbor asked about USAA rates.  We have the same type of property.  My rate is almost twice as much.  It turns out  my dwelling value is double hers because sometime between 2005-2010 USAAA changed my home characteristics (without an inspection) to increase my sq footage by 1,000 sq ft. which explains the discrepancy. 

That was probably an accident.  The "shame on you USAA" part is for telling me they will start an investigation and get back to me and three weeks later, 100% radio silence. Several voicemails were left with Mr X who has not responded. Maybe he's on vacation and forgot to update his voicemail?  I left another voicemail for a customer relations specialist who reached out to me after I emailed my initial complaint.  No response.

I willingly pay a premium for USAA products because I expect decent, no hassle customer service.  To err is human, but their dropping the ball and failing to contact me is inexcusable. 

 

stanolshefski said:   It's worth a compliant to your state's insurance ommissioner if thy won't do anything,
  
Ommissioner is exactly right in OP's case!

galawdawg said:   While I admit that during my almost forty years with USAA, I have noticed quite a drop in their level of customer service (which appears to have coincided with the period during which they drastically opened up membership eligibility), USAA actually makes it fairly easy to look at the home characteristics of your insured dwelling and even update them online.  All you do is click on your Homeowner's Policy listed in your account summary and then click on the "Home Characteristics" tab.  You can see when it was last updated and update any item that is not up to date or accurate.


Unfortunately the Declarations page, doesn't contain this information. However one would expect any of this to change if no inspections are made, or I didn't make an update online. I'm certain this was an unintentional error. Thats life. But when they promise me something (to investigate and to call me back) and they don't, that's a problem.

FWIW I called the CEO's office again, and the gent I talked to quickly understood the situation and he gave me dates as to when he would respond, and assured me he would respond even if he has no new information. He also said he would let his colleagues know in case he was out of the office. Thats all I want; someone to define and manage my expectations.

ANOTHER UPDATE: USAA has finally responded to me, and they appear to be taking steps to issue a refund. It's a little complicated because they don't have certain records nor do they have adequate appraisals for certain time periods.

I'm going to start a new thread because one thing I learned is somewhat any homebuyer should know and deserves some discussion,

Am I happy that they working towards a resolution? Yes, but I'm really unhappy that USAA completely dropped the ball several times, and their communication was downright awful. They can apologize, but I think they have a systemic problem,



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