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'Drowning us': Matlacha motel owner still battling Ian insurance claim

Matlacha insurance battle
Posted at 5:45 PM, Feb 13, 2024

MATLACHA, Fla. — For the past 17 months, the owner of Serenity Bay Cottages in Matlacha has been trying to rebuild. However, it has not been an easy road because the owner says she hasn't received any money from insurance for the Hurricane Ian damage.

Parts of the property are frozen in time with some areas still showing Ian damage.

"This is like, drowning us," said Sharon Ihlefeld, the owner.

She and her husband have put in close to $65,000 into rebuilding.

"Just to keep the mortgage running here with no income, we’ve gone through, you know, all of our savings, totally pillaged the college fund for our daughter," Ihlefeld explained.

They have also borrowed money from friends, put their house on the market and her dad even chipped in.

Ihlefeld says her insurance company, Lloyd's of London, has not paid her claim since she filed it, which was shortly after the storm. She hired an attorney about two months later.

The attorney had been going back and forth with the company, trying to get them to pay before resorting the court route.

"We only entered litigation a few months ago," she said.

Fox 4 reached out to the insurance company and are waiting for a response as of Tuesday evening.

"They’re trying to pay the lowest amount possible and our attorney is trying to get them up there," Ihlefeld said.

The owner believes Florida lawmakers are not stepping in enough to regulate insurance companies.

According to a 2023 Insurance Information Institute report, 79% of U.S. homeowner's litigation came from Florida.

In Ihlefeld's case, her attorney anticipates litigation lasting up to nine months.

"We don’t know if we’re going to last until they pay us," she said.

With money coming out of pocket for repairs, Ihlefeld says she is also frustrated with money still having to go to property taxes, dock leases with mangled pilings and insurance on a business not even open yet.

"If they’re pushing the consumer and squeezing us the way they are, why aren’t they squeezing the insurance company to do the right thing," Ihlefeld said.

All she is able to do now is wait for the money she's asking for or an offer everyone can agree on .

"We're not giving up. We're going to push," Ihlefeld said.