May 16, 2016
ABC Action News
Citizens Insurance, Florida's state-run nonprofit home insurance company, recently announced to their customers some rate increases and rule changes brought on by "abuse" of company rules.
The abuse, which amounts to legal fraud according to some insurance experts, is costing Citizens Insurance millions of dollars through a scheme that's been happening all over the state, including in the Tampa Bay area, but is especially prevalent in South Florida.
"People are giving the full rights of their policy to a third party, in this case it's a remediation company or a plumbing company or a company that can claim to take care of everything for them if they just sign here," explains independent licensed insurance agent Joshua Butts of Cornerstone Insurance.
"Not all of them have been honest with the people and it's turning into a runaway freight train at this point," Butts said.
Butts, whose company is based in Hillsborough County, went to Tallahassee recently to try to convince state lawmakers that they should be the ones to close the loopholes, as opposed to insurance companies having to restrict their own customers.
Citizens Insurance agrees, but says they're now going to have to make changes on their own "following recent unsuccessful attempts to pass significant legislative reforms aimed at curbing abuses involving assignment of benefit (AOB)."
South Florida is the focus of Citizens Insurance rate increases, which is illustrated in the 2017 rates listed here:
Palm Beach 165.8%
Miami Dade 189.6%
Rest of state -10.1%
There are also several new rules that will be taking effect on July 1, says the company: Emergency repairs can't exceed $3,000 without Citizens Insurance's approval, and no permanent repairs can be made within 72 hours of a reported loss.
Butts described those changes as reasonable since the state representatives failed to crack down on abuse of the AOB rules, but says all Floridians will suffer because of the rate increases until the state takes action.