Last week the Florida Legislature once again tweaked the troubled Florida Property Insurance Market.  In a fast-paced special session the lawmakers hurriedly passed reforms intended to “stabilize the market” by granting a number of concessions to insurers while making it more difficult for homeowners to sue when legitimate claims are denied.

While FIRM is pleased by the measures to stem fraud and AOB abuse, there is no expectation of relief for homeowners in the form of lower rates as a result. The goal is to moderate premium increases. In other words, no rate reduction, just the hope that measures taken will lead to smaller increases at some point in the future.

One of the goals of the legislation is to increase participation in the private insurance market to shrink Citizens policy counts. However, the lawmakers offered no solution for the lack of competition in Monroe County.  For Monroe County, Citizens is truly the insurer of last resort.  In making Citizens less desirable for property owners in the rest of the state, this legislation has added further burdens to Monroe County policyholders. Citizens should return to a wind only market as that was its original purpose and intent–a provider for property owners who cannot obtain wind insurance in the private market.

FIRM’s Legislative Agenda

Because the Special Session was so short, there will be adjustments made during the Regular Session that begins March 7, 2023. FIRM will be working with its lobbying team and our state legislators to push forward its priorities. Make no mistake, this is a heavy lift, and we will need all our members as well as legislators from other parts of the state to help our two legislators.

Flood insurance requirement for Citizens Policyholders even for properties for which flood insurance isn’t required

If a homeowner has a mortgage, then flood insurance is already required (unless they are in an X flood zone). The properties that would be most affected are condos and homes elevated above base flood elevation, and non-mortgaged properties. Forcing property owners to carry insurance that they don’t need is unreasonable and burdensome. Eighty-five to 90% of windstorm policies in Monroe County are with Citizens and requiring flood insurance might cause some to drop their windstorm if they don’t have a mortgage. There is no actuarial reason to make this mandatory. The only reason seems to be to further cull the ranks of Citizens policyholders.

Increasing the eligibility threshold for Citizens’ new policies for personal and commercial residential (condominium) coverage from 15 to 20 percent

We’ve seen time and time again a private insurer writing policies in Monroe County at competitive and affordable rates, only to have the premiums increased astronomically in a few years, or to see the insurer leave the state. There must be provisions that require take-out companies to honor their agreements or face stiff penalties and return their takeout bonuses. Florida needs long term commitments from the insurance marketplace.

Increase coverage limits on Citizens policies

Nothing in the legislation addresses the needed increases for Citizens coverage limits. The Office of Insurance Regulation was conducting a study of each county in Florida to determine if the limits should be increased, but the study seemed to have been abandoned to focus on Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole. Monroe County policyholders found themselves being dropped by Citizens in the middle of hurricane season with no other option. FIRM will be advocating vigorously for the completion of this study and an increase in Monroe County coverage proportional to increases in other areas of the state.

Non-homesteaded properties used for workforce housing removed from glide path

FIRM is pleased that non-homesteaded properties used to provide affordable workforce housing made it into the special session bill. This was a result of FIRM and Monroe County’s lobbying efforts during the last regular session when the issue first came up.

Closing

While some of these changes are good for Florida, they will not be good for Monroe County. We are the only county that is of critical state concern as well as having Citizens not just be our market of last resort but rather our ONLY MARKET.

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