Local Family Burned By Insurance Agent? - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Local Family Burned By Insurance Agent?

REARDAN, Wash. - Do you have homeowner's insurance? Think you're covered in case of a fire? KHQ Local News met with a Reardan family devastated by a house fire that turned their lives upside down because their insurance coverage looks to be nothing but a scam.

Unfortunately for the Seim family, they did do some homework. Just not enough. Arne Seim said a friend recommended that he use a private insurance broker rather than a large insurance company so he started researching online.

Seim stumbled across Universal Insurance Exchange and quickly interviewed someone who said he was an agent, both over the phone and in person. Seim said the man looked legitimate so he paid for a one-time premium of $1,050 and thought his home was insured.

But KHQ found that's not the case.

Three weeks ago, smoke on E Alexander Road in Reardan billowed for miles. A fire tore through the Seim's home. Fortunately, everyone inside made it out okay.

Despite their best efforts, firefighters were too late. The home built on family land and passed down through generations burned to the ground.

"You go through and you realize very quickly the power of the fire," Arne Seim said. "It's a large loss, a lot of memories."

In the days after, Seim walked through his charred home to salvage any untouched remains. Most everything was burned.

Miraculously though, most of family portraits were left unharmed.

"It was like god put his hand over one or two corners and said this doesn't burn," Seim said.

The Seim's were told the cause of the fire is electrical. Afterwards, one of the first calls Seim made was to his insurance agent whom he'd paid that one time fee to insure his home for a year.

But there's no sign of the insurance agent.

"We're now three weeks out and we've been unable to identify any contact with Universal Insurance Exchange and have turned this over to the Insurance Commissioner's Office."

Without home insurance, Seim said his family is out $525,000 dollars.

"I'm frustrated," he continued. "I wish it hadn't happened this way. He's a criminal. I mean, if he's actually going out and collecting insurance premiums and out writing policies, he's a criminal."

Seim said he won't rebuild his home since he said there are too many memories there. The family insists they do have a place to stay while they rebuilt their lives and they can only hope that others learn from their mistakes.

"I really encourage people to check things out," Seim said. "The insurance issue is so huge and I don't know how it slipped through but it did."

KHQ researched the company Universal Insurance Exchange and found they operate or did operate out of Dallas, Texas. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, http://www.tdi.texas.gov/, they are an active company but its assets are controlled by the State of Texas. All calls to the company said numbers are "unallocated."

 

According to information in the BBB files, it appears that the company is no longer in business. The phone numbers the BBB had for this company are disconnected, and directory assistance does not have a listing for this company. The BBB's mail to this company has been returned as undeliverable. If you have an unresolved dispute with this company you may wish to seek legal advice.

<http://www.bbb.org/dallas/business-reviews/insurance-auto/universal-insurance-exchange-in-dallas-tx-90007148>

In any event, if anyone sells insurance to people in Washington, they must be licensed with the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC). The OIC has no record of the agent in question or of Universal Insurance Exchange. http://www.insurance.wa.gov/

CHECKING OUT INSURANCE? CHECK OUT WASHINGTON STATE OFFICE OF THE INSURANCE COMMISSIONER:

On their homepage, look up "Agents and Complaints"

You'll not only find out if they're legally doing business in Washington, you'll also find out whether the agent or company has past discipline as well as the details about what that discipline included. If you don't have Internet access, you can also call toll-free at 1-800-562-6900 and OIC officials will look up the information for you.

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