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Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company fined over a million dollars

5/31/2013

WEAR-TV ABC 3 Pensacola

Florida's second largest property insurer is being hit with a nearly $1.3 million dollar fine.

Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company has over 500,000 policyholders statewide.

And collects more than $765 million a year in premiums. But a review by state regulators determined that Universal had unnecessary delays in paying claims.

The company was also unable to prove that it timely mailed out cancellation notices or notices of non-renewal. Universal has 21 days to decide if it wants to challenge the fine.

Since the last hurricane hit Florida, homeowner's rates have gone up by just under 10 percent. For condo owners it is 21 percent. Ratings expert John Rollins says hurricanes aren't the only driver of higher costs.

John Rollins/ Insurance Company Actuary: "Fire, water damage, vandalism, theft, smoke, explosions, these things we think of as common perils.

Thursday morning - just days before the start of hurricane season, one of Florida's largest insurance companies, Fidelity Property and Casualty was asking for a 28-percent rate. Deputy Insurance Commissioner Belinda Miller says setting rates is a delicate balancing act.

Belinda Miller/FLOIR: "We need capacity in a way that treats consumers fairly and that results in them having insurance on their property when they have a claim and need it."

Fidelity wouldn't talk with us on camera, but they said the reason they are looking for a pay increase to be profitable so they can pay out claims after the next storm hits. But Florida's Consumer Advocate says what you pay is often driven by people scamming the system.

Robin Westcott/Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate: "Many consumers get caught in the middle of people making repairs and for the bill being more than what the insurance company thought it should have been." The economy is also a factor.

Lisa Miller/Lisa Miller & Associates Insurance: "There's an age old adage that says: 'once the economy goes sour, insurance claims go up. It's almost a direct correlation."

Legislation signed by Governor Rick Scott this week creates a clearing house to help consumers find cheaper rates, but hurricane season will likely be over before the clearinghouse is up and running.