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

Posted at 10:53 PM, Jun 08, 2015

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.