Just when you thought you had seen it all with insurance companies, ABC News has released this new report on homeowner’s insurance:
As a New Orleans federal court holds a hearing today on lawsuits alleging that defective Chinese-made drywall is destroying people’s homes and their health, outside the courtroom owners of more than 100,000 houses built with that drywall are learning that some insurance companies are canceling their policies.
Now that insurance companies know about the tainted drywall, some, such as Universal Insurance and Citizens Property Insurance, have chosen to cancel policies to avoid further risk from things like corroding pipes that could burst.
Builders started using Chinese-made drywall after the combined building boom, the devastation to Florida by Hurricanes Charley, Francis, Ivan, and Jeanne in 2004, and then the Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005 caused a shortage in domestic building materials. At first, the building materials from China didn’t seem to be any different than the normally-used materials, but after a while, the homeowners who moved into the homes built with Chinese-made drywall began to notice a change in their health and living conditions. Take, for instance, the story of real-estate agent Felix Martinez:
Felix Martinez thought he’d found his dream house when he bought the 3,500-square-foot beauty in Homestead, Fla., two years ago.
Then, he says, his large-screen TV mysteriously failed. Next, the air conditioner went. His bath towels smelled like rotten eggs. Visitors noted an odor in the house. Martinez says he’s suffered new sinus problems and sleep apnea. His wife and son sneeze a lot.
Other families have reported similar timelines in homes that were built with Chinese materials: damage to their property, a sulfurous odor, and negative health effects, usually dealing with the respiratory system. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is currently investigating Chinese-made drywall, to see if it is emitting sulfur gasses, which can corrode copper coils and electronics in a home. A current lawsuit against the drywall manufacturer Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin says that such sulfurous gasses can have negative health effects on people, but Knauf disagrees, saying that tests have been done on the gasses and they do not affect health in any way.
Either way, it is apparent that living conditions in homes with Chinese-made drywall are becoming unbearable, so the homeowners have two options: either move, or replace the drywall. If the family moves, "they have to disclose the drywall problem and that may make their dream home virtually worthless". These homes were built in 2005 or more recently, so the majority of the people who have bought these homes have not paid off their mortgages on them, which may make selling them for less then they paid for them a financial catastrophe.
Unfortunately, if the family chooses to replace the drywall, it could cost them upwards of $100,000, and many home-owners insurance companies, such as Citizens Insurance Company, are dropping their policies with these homeowners as soon as the families make a claim to help pay for the replacement drywall.
While the law doesn’t prevent insurance companies from dropping policies in this manner, this is another example of ordinary people being left out to dry by the insurance companies that they pay high premiums to every month. If we can’t rely on our insurance companies to help us financially when we fall on hard times, then why do we pay them so much money? This is a sad situation, and hopefully we will learn from this, and start to hold our insurance companies and homebuilders accountable for their actions.