News10NBC Investigates: Insurance company uses satellite photo to demand repairs to customer’s Spencerport home

Insurance companies using satellites, drones to inspect homes

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It might be an industry practice, but it surprised this homeowner in Spencerport when her insurance company used an aerial image to inspect her home.

And the insurance company told her to fix the problems that the satellite image appeared to expose or risk losing her coverage.

“My house is surrounded by many trees,” Terry Erickson said outside her home in Spencerport.
Erickson lives in a wooded area of the town. Her roof doesn’t get a lot of sun, and this week it was covered in snow.

But just before Christmas she got an email from her insurance company, Nationwide. It said it uses a “3rd party that obtains imagery data.” It included a satellite photo of her home with arrows pointing to what it called discolored and streaking parts of the roof.

“In order to retain” her insurance policy, the email said she has to fix all of it.

Brean: “Did you know insurance companies could use satellites or drones to monitor your house?”
Terry Erickson, Spencerport: “No. I don’t think anybody has ever heard of that. I mean, I talked to one of my neighbors and he said ‘what?'”

A contact in the insurance business told me using satellite photos or drone video over customer homes is not uncommon but it’s also not widely known by customers.

I started calling and emailing Nationwide on Wednesday.
I wanted to know when they started doing this?
How new do the images have to be?
And do they follow up with an inspection by a real person?

As of Friday evening, Nationwide had not responded.

Erickson pointed to all the arrows pointing to her roof on the aerial image and then referred back to the repair warning in the email.

Erickson: “You may risk non-renewal of your insurance policy.”
Brean: “That’s a do-it-or-else kind of sentence.”
Erickson: “Doesn’t it sound like that?”

The demand gives Erickson until September to fix or replace her roof.

New York State says there are no rules against insurance companies using satellite and drone images to inspect a customer’s home. The state says it’s routine.