Insurance companies use drones, manned planes and high-altitude balloons to spy on homes and deny coverage: report

Home insurance companies are increasingly using aerial images from drones and even high-altitude balloons as a tool to dump properties seen as higher risk, according to a report.

Angry homeowners have reported losing their coverage after being told they had damaged roof shingles, debris in the backyard or having undeclared items such as swimming pools or trampolines, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase across the country in reports from consumers who’ve been dropped by their insurers on the basis of an aerial image,” Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a consumer advocate group, told The Journal.

No home is safe from surveillance.

The Geospatial Insurance Consortium, an industry-funded group which carries out aerial surveillance missions, said that it has photographed 99% of homes in the US.

Homeowners insurance companies are dropping clients from their policies using aerial surveillance images taken by drones, according to a report. Ruslan Ivantsov –

One of those homes belonged to Cindy Picos, a Northern California resident from the town of Auburn, who said her coverage was yanked last month after the insurer took aerial photos of her roof.

The underwriter told Picos that the roof had “lived its life expectancy” — though she told The Journal that she had recently hired an independent inspector who said that the roof was good another 10 years.

The insurer declined to reconsider, she said. It also refused Picos’ request to see the photos in question, a decision she called “absolutely wrong.”

The state, which has seen costs soar due to natural disasters like wildfires, has had seven of its top 12 home insurers — including Farmers Insurance, State Farm and Allstate — pause or restrict coverage, saying they can’t afford to take on new clients.

Last month, State Farm announced it would drop coverage for 30,000 residential and 42,000 commercial properties in California.

Insured homeowners are reporting that underwriters have flagged issues with their roofs using images taken by drones and other aerial vehicles. christian.bitzas –

Meanwhile, home and auto insurance companies continue to report robust profits — fueled by steep rate increases.

Premiums for US homeowners’ insurance jumped by an average of 21% from May 2022 to May 2023, according to a study by online insurance marketplace Policygenius.

That eclipsed the staggering 12% rise from the previous year. 

Homeowners insurance premiums have soared while coverage is harder to come by nationwide. Allison –

The use of aerial images to drop clients prompted Nichole Brink, a Michigan resident, to quit her job at Farmers last year, according to The Journal.

“It’s like they’re using anything as an excuse to get people off their books,” Brink said.

She said Farmers would send nonrenewal notices if they found somebody had a trampoline on their property.

Customers were also dropped if moss was found on the side of their vacation home, according to The Journal.

Dropped clients have complained that some of the aerial images taken of their roofs are between two and three years old. Aleksandr Simonov –

Brink alleged that Farmers made these decisions using images that were two-to-three years old. One customer was denied coverage because of a roof despite the fact that it was brand new, according to Brink.

She told The Journal that her own home was flagged because there was a tree branch that was hanging over her barn.

For Brink, it proved to be the last straw as she switched insurers and jobs.

The Post has sought comment from Farmers.

A spokesperson for the company told The Journal that the insurer regularly examines images of the insured properties and that customers have 60 days to correct any issue that was flagged.

With Post Wires

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