(WSVN) - A couple never had windstorm insurance for their house, but then a lender required they pay thousands for it, not for the current year but for a prior one. Is that legal? Let’s bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser to find out.

Life in the Keys is just different.

Nancy Clemmons: “We have a glass of wine in the afternoon. We have a sunset view straight out to the west. It just doesn’t get any better.”

And to think, at one point Nancy didn’t want to move from Broward to live on the Gulf.

Nacy Clemmons: “Kerry’s always loved the Keys, my husband, but I went down kicking and screaming, and now you can’t get me out of here. It’s just wonderful.”

Kerry and Nancy moved to their home in 2004. Fortunately their mortgage is now small. In part because they have never had windstorm insurance.

Nancy Clemmons: “We avoided windstorm. Windstorm, to me, is something that pays very little and charges a lot.”

In 2020 they refinanced and made sure their lender understood they were not getting windstorm insurance.

Nancy Clemmons: “So they said, ‘No problem. We won’t charge for windstorm. You don’t have to have it. It’s not required in the State of Florida. Only certain banks.'”

Then that bank sold the mortgage to another lender. Nearly a year passed when the letter came in the mail.

Nancy Clemmons: “And they said you must have windstorm from the time that we took over the mortgage, that they would purchase it themselves to the tune of $37,000.”

Imagine getting a letter saying you were going to be charged this much for insurance for the prior year?

Nancy Clemmons: “I was knocked over. I can’t, I couldn’t believe it because it’s money that we didn’t owe, to start with. It’s money that they cannot charge us with.”

But they did charge the Clemmons for it, $33,412 to be specific, for insurance all the way back to the middle of 2020.

Nancy Clemmons: “I don’t know how they got the insurance because you can’t backdate insurance. I can’t pay for something in time that has already gone by.”

Nancy and Kerry tried to fight and got nowhere.

Now, as 2022 rolled around, their mortgage would go up nearly $3,000 a month to pay off that back insurance bill.

Nancy Clemmons: “It has torn me up. I have no peace. I worry about it all the time. I’ve done everything that I can think of to make them understand that they’re making a mistake.”

Or is the bank making a mistake, Howard?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Believe it or not, a lender can force you to buy current insurance even if you don’t want it. Plus, they can force you to pay for retroactive insurance because the loan documents you sign usually allow it. But the Clemmonses should be OK because their original lender waived the requirement for windstorm, meaning they don’t have to pay that $33,000 insurance bill.”

I first spoke to US Bank back in September. We exchanged emails and phone calls every week or two, as they let me know they were investigating.

Nancy Clemmons: “Because they never would answer my phone calls, but they answered your phone calls, and you were so persistent. When they wouldn’t respond to me, you got them to respond to you over and over.”

Finally, in December, we got the email we were waiting for.

A US bank spokesman wrote me, “We believe what these customers experienced is an isolated incident, and we appreciate them bringing this matter to our attention so we could work together to find an acceptable resolution.”

In other words, the $33,000 insurance bill was eliminated and calm returned to the Clemmons house in the Keys.

Nancy Clemmons: “You are our savior. I am so grateful that you were able to help us with this situation. Thank you so much. I just don’t know how to thank you. You guys really came through for us.”

Glad we could help, Nancy. Don’t wanna disrupt that Keys lifestyle.

And if you think your lender is not treating you fairly, like the Clemmonses felt, file a complaint with the federal government and let them investigate.

A wind storm of problems blasting you? Knows the keys to solving them? Call us. It’s our policy to insure you can bank on us.

TO FILE A COMPLAINT:
www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint

TO GET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT FORCED PLACE HAZARD INSURANCE:
www.consumerfinance.gov/rules-policy/regulations/1024/37/

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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