More than 6 months after allowing oral arguments, the 1st District Court of Appeal (DCA) rendered a decision denying FIRM’s or anyone else’s right to challenge Citizens Property Insurance windstorm rates approved by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). FIRM is filing a motion with the First DCA requesting rehearing before the entire Court, rather than a 3 judge panel, and certification of the right to challenge approved Citizens’ rates as a question of great public importance.

The court noted that the plain legislative text is ambiguous and not clear in regard to whether a Citizens policy holder can seek administrative review of a final order establishing rates.  However, the court found that the 2007 Legislation that specifically eliminated the opportunity for Citizens Insurance to appeal final orders, though unstated, applied to Citizens policy holders as well

FIRM contended that the approved 2017 rates were based on data derived from four hurricane loss models that varied widely in their rate recommendations and were derived in a manner biased against Monroe County.  Based on these and other factors unique to Monroe County, FIRM argued that it should be allowed an administrative hearing to challenge the rates.  Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier subsequently denied Citizens proposed residential wind rate increase for 2018 citing the need for further analysis into the same issues presented by FIRM in opposing the 2017 rate increase. These include an evaluation and study of appropriate rating territories for Monroe County, consideration of providing a credit for plywood (Class C) shutters, evaluation of the effect of Monroe County building code standards on wind mitigation credits, and an evaluation of the accepted hurricane models and a requirement that Monroe County building codes be reflected in the model results.

The denial of the proposed increase for 2018 was a hard-fought win for FIRM and Monroe County that will save Monroe County policyholders $4 Million in 2018 alone. But, the struggle against unjustifiably high rates continues.  In addition to financial support, FIRM needs the renewed membership of Monroe County residents to show that this is a unified County-wide grassroots effort.

 

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