TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane season starts in just a couple weeks, and there are new signs that Florida’s property insurance market is still a mess.
8 On Your Side has learned that Citizens Property Insurance, the state’s insurer of last resort, continues to add thousands of policies a week as private insurers drop homeowners.
We wanted to get a snapshot of the property insurance market as we get ready to enter hurricane season. The problem is that insurance companies can hide most of their data by labeling it a trade secret.
The exception is Citizens and what we’re now learning is troubling.
Michael Peltier handles legislative and external affairs for Citizens.
“Our policy count is growing statewide, including the Tampa Bay area,” said Peltier.
State-backed Citizens is getting bigger. On average, it’s adding 7,500 policies a week, and recent legislative reforms have not slowed the growth.
With just weeks until the start of hurricane season, Citizens now insurers nearly 1.3 million Floridians.
“In general, companies are making their policies more restrictive, restricting who they’re picking up and leaving some areas of the state,” said Peltier.
So, if you’re dropped, what will it take to be placed with Citizens?
8 On Your Side obtained the company’s extensive and complicated underwriting guidelines.
For example, if your property is older than 20 years old, Citizens requires a four-point inspection or a check of the electrical, plumbing and cooling systems.
In Tampa Bay, homes with a replacement value greater than $700,000 are rejected.
But older roofs, not necessarily.
“Policies that come into us that have roofs as old as 25 years, we accept those,” said Peltier. “We tend to be more flexible in our eligibility requirements.”
Peltier says data backs that up and less than 1% of homeowners are rejected by Citizens for non-insurability.
So what will a Citizens policy cost you? Unlike private insurers, Citizens’ rates are capped. This year, they can only increase 13%. But a rate isn’t a premium.
“A rate is what we charge per unit of coverage, if you want to call it that,” said Peltier.
Your premium includes the rate, plus the replacement value of your home. That means, like everyone else, Citizens policy holders could see a huge spike.
“So the premiums they pay will be more than that 13% as an example, they may be over 20% because the value of their house..the value of replacing their house has gone up as well,” said Peltier.
If you have a tip about insurance or another topic, email investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.