NewsLocal News


KCK woman navigating insurance claims after storms damaged her home

insurance and storms.jpg
Posted at 7:59 PM, May 22, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — During storm season, insurance claims are top of mind for individuals whose homes were damaged by high winds, hail and rain.

Take Lisa Walker Yeager, for instance.

I first spoke with Yeager back in March about running her neighborhood association in Kansas City, Kansas, and expenses the homeowners she oversees deal, including property taxes.

She’s added another item to her list thanks to storm damage after storms Monday damaged her house.

“I was like, Oh my God, I was so shocked," Yeager said after coming home and seeing the wreckage left by the storm.

Not only did the storms hit the back of her home, ripping off wood and brick, but her neighbor’s tree fell into her yard, over her fence, and onto her power lines.

“I have a neighbor who is 90-years-old, which the same tree took out her electricity," Yeager said. "So she has to, with a fixed income, figure out how to get an electrician,” Yeager said.

Yeager said the Board of Public Utilities came by her home to assess the damage, but she says they’re unable to restore power until she has construction done inside of her home to fix the wiring.

“That one tree damaged two properties, which is totally unfair,” Yeager said.

Yeager says the home she currently lives in belonged to her parents. Both are deceased.

She owns the home and says over the past few decades, her next door neighbor’s property has been vacant.

“I asked her for an insurance company now, she doesn't have insurance,” Yeager said. “I think it's unfair that I have to file against my own personal insurance.”

Unfair as it is, Mike Smith, the CEO of Twin Lakes Insurance Agency, says there’s typically two outcomes that come from disputes over fallen trees — which he says are extremely common.

“If the tree's dead, we have negligence because the homeowner should have cut the tree down,” Smith said. “Therefore, the neighbor's homeowners would pay to remove the tree and fix the damages. But if the tree falls from the neighbor's and it was alive, the neighbor's policy will not respond to it at all. So, the neighbor's policy will not respond, your policy has to respond because there's no negligence on the neighbor's part.”

Yeager is still in the early stages of this dispute, but she says the timing isn’t ideal.

“I'm getting ready to have surgery, so I'll be disabled,” Yeager said. “So basically, I'm living on a fixed income myself.”

On top of that, her insurance rate just doubled because her former agency, Branch, no longer sells in Kansas.

I reached out to Branch and a spokesperson confirmed that, for the time being, they are not providing services in Kansas.

“I can confirm that Branch is currently not selling insurance in Kansas,” a spokesperson said. “For clarification, across the country, Branch has sold insurance both through our owned and operated insurance company called the Branch Insurance Exchange (BIX) in states where it is fully licensed as well as through underwriting partners in states where we are still working to get fully licensed to sell BIX insurance. In the case of Kansas, our underwriting partner elected to discontinue its homeowners and auto insurance programs in the state and so now we are currently not selling insurance there.”

The spokesperson added that the company is continuing to work with the lo cal regulator to get licensed with the Branch Insurance Exchange so it can offer coverage in Kansas soon. However, that date has yet to be determined.

Smith says it’s imperative for insurance companies not to pull out of markets where natural disasters or weather damage is common.

“We’ve had tons pull out of Florida in natural disasters,” Smith said. “They run. In the state of Missouri, we don’t want them pulling out. So bring your rates up, continue to write because that keeps somewhat of a competition between companies to keep the rates down. The less companies we have, the higher rates are going to go.”

Smith says he understands why it’s so common to back out of markets like Kansas.

“We are a hail-prone area. The companies can’t continue to buy these roofs and stay in business,” Smith said. “These roofs have jumped from, let’s say an average of $15,000 to $18,000, now they’re talking $25,000 to $30,000 thousand. They’ve almost doubled, and the premiums are running very close to that.”

Smith says property insurance in Kansas City is ‘problematic,’ which is why he’s encouraging people to stay where they are. Otherwise, he says, they’ll have to deal with rate increases, which he says are increasing for a reason.

“We have to bring the prices up to what construction costs are,” Smith said. “Your premiums have been stuck in the same spot for the last 7, 8, 10 years.”

His advice to homeowners is to keep their deductibles high, but he also sees potential changes in the Kansas City industry overall, as companies begin to change the way they view severe weather here.

“I foresee, in the future, that we will have to have a state program developed somewhat like earthquake in California, fire in California, fire in Colorado, flood in Florida,” Smith said.

In the meantime, Yeager hopes to find relief in the sea of expenses she and her neighbors face. She says it starts with talking about it.

“You know, it's just a lot,” she said.