Florida insurance companies going to new heights, using planes and drones to scrutinize roofs

You probably won’t have a clue until you get a cancellation notice. AI companies take photos of Florida homes every 90 days

by: Shannon Behnken

Posted: Apr 1, 2021 / 4:13 PM EDT
Updated: April 2, 2021 / 8:36 AM EDT

TAMPA, Florida (WFLA) – If you see a plane or drone over your home, it could be from your insurance company.

Many insurance companies are improving their game when it comes to minimizing the risk of having to buy a new roof when you make a claim.

For months, Better Call Behnken has been investigating an insurance crackdown that is leading to an increasing number of homeowners in the Tampa Bay area being asked to either replace their roofs or start a new insurance company. Sometimes the roofs are only eight or ten years old and in good condition.

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It’s part of an industry-wide effort to curb umbrella claim fraud and recoup money lost in litigation. Some insurance companies are now turning to artificial intelligence companies to check roofs regularly and use planes and drones to take pictures and technology to process the data and report to the insurance company.

It takes some homeowners by surprise and raises privacy and accuracy concerns.

“I didn’t know they were using drones for home inspections,” said Valerie Valdez of Tampa.

Valdez is in the middle of an insurance problem that no homeowner wants. She was told to replace her 13 year old roof or lose cover.

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Valdez says it wasn’t until she received a letter from her agent that she spotted a drone on her roof. Based on photos taken with the drone, she says the Federated National Insurance Company is dropping it.

Valdez tells us the company never sent a real person to check what the drone was displaying. A Federated National Insurance spokesman declined to comment on the story.

Valdez did what most homeowners would do in their situation: she hired her own roof inspectors – two of them – to physically climb her roof, touch the shingles, and assess the condition of her roof.

Both inspectors said their roof does not need to be replaced. One of the roofers even gave her a written statement for her insurance company, estimating that her roof would have to live for at least another five years.

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However, Valdez says her insurance agent has told her the decision has been made.

“They said it wasn’t good enough,” said Valdez. “You go by what the drone said.”

If that sounds futuristic, it isn’t. You may never notice those eyes in the sky, drones and airplanes. The aim is to identify aging, weak roofs and oblige homeowners to repair or replace them before damage occurs that could leave the insurance company on the hook in order to settle a claim for a new roof.

Locke Burt, the CEO of Security First Insurance Company, tells investigator Shannon Behnken that he is one of the first in Florida to work with an AI company that uses planes to photograph every roof in Florida every 90 days.

“There are people other than Mark Zuckerberg who look at you every day,” he said. “Trust me.”

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And it’s more than just pictures, he says. The technology can talk to public records and flag approvals, as well as other information about your home that an insurance company might find valuable.

“They fly by, they take a picture of the roof, they run it through a machine and the machine evaluates the roof – it’s either great, good, okay, question mark, or terrible,” he explained.

Burt says his company then sends real people to check out the artificial intelligence flagged roofs. But in Valdez’s case, she says that didn’t happen.

“At the moment that COVID is up, people don’t have that much money to do that,” Valdez said.

If this happens to you, have a third party inspect you on the roof and report these results to your insurance company. In some cases this can make a difference. If your insurance company doesn’t give in, these inspections can help you find a new insurance company.

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