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Insurance Consumer Advocate

Sha'Ron James


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Tallahassee, FL 32399-0308

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Insurance will cost more; regulators approve Citizens rate hike

 

Date: September 16, 2016
Source: Miami Herald
Author:  Nancy Dahlberg

 

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation on Friday announced that its commissioner, David Altmaier, has approved a range of rate increases for policyholders of state-run Citizens Property Insurance.

Rates for multi-peril homeowners policies, the most common line, will rise 6.4 percent on average, just under the 6.8 percent average rate increase sought by Citizens. Areas of Miami-Dade and Broward will see increases between 9.1 and 9.9 percent. Citizens is the largest insurer in South Florida.

The latest rate increase was spurred by a sharp increase in rising water-related claims tied to “assignment of benefits,” Citizens said. That is when homeowners in need of repairs, often for water damage such as from a broken pipe, assign responsibility for the repair to contractors to pursue payments from insurance companies. This spike in water-related claims was originally centered on South Florida but has spread, insurers say.

Property insurers statewide, including Citizens, wanted the Legislature to restrict the practice, which they say has been ripe for fraud and increased litigation. Often the damage has already been repaired before insurers are contacted, making it hard to determine the validity of claims. Contractors and attorneys have said assignment of benefits lets them more quickly make repairs. In response to the spike in claims, Citizens also recently made changes in the terms of its policies.

“The 2017 rates reflect the growing challenge of rising water loss claims and the disturbing increased costs associated with assignment of benefits,” Citizens president Barry Gilway said in a statement. “Unless the legislature takes action, our policyholders can expect these increases for years to come.”

Homeowner wind-only policies will rise 8.2 percent and so-called fire policies will increase 5.3 percent. Multi-peril insurance for mobile homes will rise 5.7 percent. Mobile homes with wind-only coverage will see an average 10.3 percent increase. Rate filing decisions for the commercial residential and commercial non-residential accounts are still pending.

Nearly 11 years free of hurricanes has pumped up Citizens’ surplus. Hurricane Hermine happened after the rate request was filed and is not expected to have a major impact on insurers.

The effective date for both new and renewal rates is Feb. 1.