TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — One week after Hurricane Ian hit, tens of thousands of Floridians have property damage and are turning to their insurance companies hoping they’ll pay up.
The state’s insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, says it’s projecting to face up to $2.6 billion in losses to Ian. It’s expecting to handle 200,000 claims or more.
But whether you have Citizens or a private company, will they actually be able to pay up? 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi went to a so-called “insurance village” in Port Charlotte to find out.
The state site, located in the Port Charlotte Town Center on Tamiami Trail, is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. It was created to help storm victims file their insurance claims.
The goal is to help policyholders deal directly with their insurance company, close the claim and walk away with a check. But the question is – will homeowners be able cash the checks or will they bounce?
Hurricane Ian was the worst-case scenario for Florida’s troubled property insurance market. Even before the storm, the industry was dealing with billions in losses, rampant litigation and fraud. Just this year, six insurers went bankrupt.
8 On Your Side asked Gov. Ron DeSantis and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis this week if storm victims will get their claims paid out.
“There’s multiple redundancies in the state of Florida,” Patronis said.
“We have taken action to stabilize, and we will do more if we need to,” Gov. DeSantis said. “I mean, I will call another special session.”
State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg, spearheaded the push for the first special session to address property insurance in May. Now, he believes there should be another.
In Port Charlotte on Wednesday, Sen. Brandes also called for the governor to form a task force to come up with fixes post-Ian.
“If there was ever a year we didn’t need a storm, it was this year,” said Brandes.
8 On Your Side asked how Floridians could be impacted moving forward when it comes to insurance.
“Overall, Floridians should expect rates to go up 20 and 30 percent next year,” said Sen. Brandes.
Right now, there’s more than $12 billion in the state’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, also known as the CAT fund. Gov. DeSantis says that money can help storm victims recover.
“One, you have community rallying for you, you have a state rallying for you and you have people all over the country rallying to come and provide support,” DeSantis said. “The folks who have been displaced, I think, are displaying an incredible amount of resiliency.”
If you are filing a claim, state officials say watch out for fraudulent contractors knocking on your door.
The state wants you to call your insurance agent or the CFO’s Office. You can also stop by the CFO’s insurance villages set up in Port Charlotte or Fort Myers.
Patronis says if you need a tarp for your roof, you can get one for free.