TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s supposed to be the state insurer of last resort, but more than a million Floridians rely on Citizens Property Insurance.
In the wake of the new property insurance bill, major changes are coming for these policy holders.
If Citizens does not have enough money to pay out claims, then homeowners across the state, will pay the price. It’s called an assessment.
It’s precisely what lawmakers are trying to avoid as they make changes to the state-backed company.
“There’s no reason why the insurance companies getting screwed by somebody should come out of my pocket,” said Jim Nastelli.
Like thousands of other Floridians, Nastelli lost his property insurance in the middle of hurricane season.
His private insurer dropped him but then, the state-backed insurer, Citizens, came to his rescue.
Nastelli said all was well at his Hernando County home, until lawmakers passed sweeping changes in the December special legislative session.
The new law requires all Citizens policy holders to eventually have flood insurance. Some, in the next few months.
In an email, Nastelli told 8 On Your Side, “I don’t live in a flood zone. This is nonsense and it’s outrageous.”
State Sen. Jason Pizzo said the changes are outrageous, too.
“My constituents are getting screwed,” he said during the special session.
Sen. Pizzo is concerned for families in multi-story buildings and high-rises.
“Why would the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd [floors] be required to get flood insurance?” said Sen. Pizzo.
Ron Assise, CIC, CPRM is an insurance broker.
“Generally, any flood zone that has the letter A or the letter V are the higher risk flood zones,” said Assise.
Assise explained the impact of the new laws for Citizens policy holders.
If you’re in a high-risk federal flood zone, you’ll need flood insurance soon.
By April 1, if you’re a new policy holder, and by July 1, if you’re renewing your policy with Citizens.
All other policyholders, regardless of zone, must carry flood insurance by 2027.
There are other changes, too.
“The larger that Citizens gets, the more risk there is to every citizen in the state of Florida,” said Assise.
Some families may be forced to leave the state-backed company for a more expensive private policy.
Let’s say your rate is $1,000 with Citizens, if you get an offer of $1,199 from a private insurer, or a rate that’s within 20%, you’ve got to take it.
In the past, you could stay with the state-backed company unless and until you got a better offer.
It’s possible that lawmakers will amend the requirement that people in a high-rise need flood coverage.
Meanwhile, Assise says premium increases are capped at 12% for most with Citizens.
But one group, those whose primary residence is not in Florida, could see their rate go up as much as 50%.
If you have a story to share about property insurance, email investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com