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Citizens insurance opens Keys claims centers

Upper Keys residents meet with Citizens Property Insurance Corp. staff at a Catastrophe Response Center at the Murray Nelson Government and Cultural Center at mile marker 102 on Key Largo. A Marathon center opened Tuesday and a Key West center is scheduled to open soon.
Upper Keys residents meet with Citizens Property Insurance Corp. staff at a Catastrophe Response Center at the Murray Nelson Government and Cultural Center at mile marker 102 on Key Largo. A Marathon center opened Tuesday and a Key West center is scheduled to open soon. Keynoter

The state’s Citizens Property Insurance Corp. plans to have three Catastrophe Response Centers operating in the Florida Keys to assist windstorm policyholders with damage-claim filing.

“We have folks available to take claims, answer questions and, if appropriate, advance living expenses,” said Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier.

▪  A center that opened at Key Largo’s Murray Nelson Government and Cultural Center at mile marker 102 on Sept. 8 met with about 100 policyholders Monday. Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

▪  A response center opened Tuesday at the City of Marathon Marina, on the oceanside off U.S. 1 at mile marker 49 (800 35th Street Ocean), open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

▪  Citizens’ representatives on Big Pine Key will work from the Morgan Insurance Group office at 31109 Avenue A, Suite 4, 9 a.m. tol 5 p.m. starting Sept. 21.

▪  Citizens expects to have a Key West center open by this weekend. A location and hours will be announced. “It’s a work in progress,” Peltier said Monday.

Policyholders should take photos of damage, bring personal identification and a copy of the policy, if available.

Policyholders also can call a hotline — (866) 411-2742 — answered 24 hours a day.

“A lot of people in the Lower Keys don’t have transportation at this point so this is a good first step to get the ball rolling,” Peltier said. “Do not hesitate to call.”

“Some people have said they don’t plan to file a claim because they’re worried that it could cause their policy to be canceled or raise their rates,” he said. “You cannot be canceled or have your rates increased because you filed a claim. It’s against the law [for insurers] to do that.”

“Keys people are used to seeing their rates going up every year and that may not change,” Peltier said. “But it won’t be because they filed a claim.”

Call insurers first

Avoid “assignment-of-benefit scams and abuse” sought by “unscrupulous contractors and repair companies” by contacting insurers before signing any contract, Citizens said in a statement.

“Policyholders are most likely to be offered an assignment of benefit while making emergency repairs or when companies come to the door soliciting business,” the company said. “Policyholders may be told repairs cannot be completed until they have signed an assignment-of-benefit contract, which allows the company to submit the claim and deal directly with Citizens:”

“You may be signing away your rights and be left with unfinished repairs or forced to pay a contractor for repairs not covered by your policy,” Citizens says.

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