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Problem Solvers: 86-year-old man’s home insurance refuses to cover caved-in ceiling

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SHELBYVILLE, Mich.— A homeowner in West Michigan is footing a $30,000 bill to repair a home he’s owned for 35 years. This after the living room, and kitchen ceiling came crashing in. He called the Fox 17 Problem Solvers after his Hastings Mutual insurance company said this kind of damage wasn’t covered.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me. When something collapses in your home, it should be covered,” said Julie Spencer about her dad’s ceiling collapsing.

The house was built in the 70’s, and at that time it met all the codes, but the insurance forensic report says it was a construction error when it was built that’s kept them from covering this damage from April. The owner says there was no way for them to know that there was any problem before it collapsed.

On April 28th plaster, dust, and insulation covered 86-year-old Raymond Brenner’s kitchen and living room area. He came home to this after leaving his home for fifteen minutes to run an errand.

When I opened the door and stepped in here, I was like ‘oh my gosh, oh my gosh!’

Julie Spencer, Brenner’s daughter, said there were no warning signs, lucky her dad wasn’t there when it fell.

“We don’t know what happened. He usually sits in that chair where that big pile of rubbish could have come right down on him,” said Spencer.

They were relieved to know they had home insurance that would help with the costs,  but it wasn’t long after when they found out the insurance company does not cover something like this.

“Well I think it’s important if the insurance company sells somebody insurance, you might want to inform the people you are selling to that it won’t cover it if the house falls down,” said Spencer.

Her father has lived here for nearly 40 years. His livelihood, like his large farm, and his hunting trophies and prized possessions line his home, but he was forced to leave until the roof was fixed.

“You could not live here because you couldn’t even breathe in here. It wasn’t even good to be in the home because if you were here for just a minute your eyes burned,” said Spencer.

They hired a contractor to fix the ceiling in less than a month for $30,000, but that didn’t include furniture damages, and hotel costs for Brenner to live elsewhere.

“The thing is this is my dad’s home. He is elderly and he has Alzheimer’s and this is his home. It has to be fixed because he has to live here,” said Spencer.

Spencer and her father were under the impression something like this would be covered. Although Brenner can cover the costs, Spencer says the money should be saved for his health expenses.

“The insurance company sent out an engineer and the engineer said, ‘oh well the glue that was on the plaster board didn’t stick properly,’” said Spencer.

The family showed us the forensic report for Hastings Mutual insurance company. The report explained what they say led to the ceiling crumbling down. On that report it outlines that the insurance doesn’t cover “use of defective material or methods in construction” .

“I really don’t feel that that’s a very fair assessment,” said Spencer.

Spencer argues the house was up to code when her father moved in, in the late 70’s.

“Does that mean that a house you build today can fall down five to ten years from now, and the insurance isn’t going to cover the house you have insurance on because of the code change?”

Even the forensic engineering report says there’s no way they would have known anything was wrong saying “these deficiencies with the drywall fastening system were hidden from the view and the owners had no way of identifying that an attachment deficiency existed prior to the failure.”

“We couldn’t go back on the builder because of the length of time that had gone by,” said Spencer.

Spencer is nervous because the whole farm is covered under this insurance as well as her own home.

“They need to tell people ‘by the way do you realize if your wall caves in we are not going to cover that, if your floor falls in, we aren’t going to cover that, if your ceiling falls down, we aren’t going to cover that.’ People believe that will be covered.”

As of news time on Monday we have reached out to the insurance company by e-mail and phone. We have still not heard back from them about what kind of policies their home insurance contains, or if they had any past recommendations for Brenner.

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  • tataluai

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  • Jim King

    That is pretty typical for an insurance company to attempt to ‘Weasel’ out of paying a claim on any grounds they can conjure up. I was surprised at which insurance company it was though. I was expecting it to be a different one that I won’t name. I have dealt with numerous insurance companies over the years through managing & owning Auto Body Shops, being a Property Damage Appraiser for a short time and having several claims myself. There are a few companies that treat their policy holders fairly, but it is more common to run into a situation like this where you are going to get screwed by the ones you were counting on to help you.

  • Maria Reed

    I can relate to the Insurance problem I had roof damage from high winds last year and the insurance co told me they would only replace the shingles that blew off.When the whole roof needed repair I wond up paying for it my self an got another insurance co.

  • UnCommon Sense

    I hate to go here, but I’ve found it so hard to read this article that I almost lost the point of it. Sentence fragments, improper punctuation, grammar…. I hated English / Language Arts in school, but I was good enough at it to know how to properly edit something beyond a first draft. You’d think in order to work for a news station you would need to show aptitude in writing, or at least have someone proofread it before it’s published. I would have had a paper marked all over with red pen if I turned this in during school.
    Cassy, with all due respect, take this as very positive constructive criticism: Please proofread before you post articles. This is not the first of yours I’ve noticed with structural errors. Just looking out for you.

  • Dick Dreger

    The insurance company should have inspected the home prior to accepting the premiums, rather than find fault with the construction after the fact and, in this case 35-40 years after the home was constructed in which it probably passed all code inspections. This insurance company was certainly willing to accept the premiums for as many years as they had the property insured, but I’ve seen a lot of insurance companies try to weasel out of paying claims in the last few years.

  • ISOking

    They should contest this…if the home has been fine for 40 years, this would be considered hidden decay and covered under most standard policies (“Decay that is hidden from view, unless the presence of such decay is known to an “insured” prior to collapse;”)

  • Deborah Straub

    insurance companies are getting so bad nuts isn’t there some group out there that can help people my daughter is going thru the same thing with her travel trailer

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