Florida Homeowners are seeking Citizens Property Insurance Again

30 Sep

Florida homeowners are moving to Citizens Property, the state-backed property insurer of last resort as the private market has become economically stressed, according the president of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. 

Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway warned that an “unhealthy” private market is leading to increased policies at Citizens. The majority of problems stem from the issues with litigation and dramatic increases in the cost of reinsurance. 

“The growth is becoming extraordinary,” Gilway said during an online meeting of the Citizens Board of Governors. “And you can gloss over these numbers, but the impact they have on the overall operations is significant.”

Citizens hit their peak of roughly 1.5 million policies in 2012 and then made major efforts to shed policies and move homeowners into the private market. According to Citizens, a healthy number of policies for the company is about 420,000 which is right around where it was in 2019. 

According to Gilway, Citizens will most likely be above 540,000 policies by the end of 2020 which pushes them up from 4 percent of the Florida market to 5 percent. The problem is even worse in Southeast Florida where Citizens accounts for almost 17 percent of the home insurance market. 

As insurers pull out of the South Florida market or decline to cover homes that are older than 10 years old, Gilway predicts that Citizens will grow to 625,000 policies next year which works out to 6 percent of the market. 

Gilway said the company has been acquiring 2,500 to 3,000 new policies a week. “This is exacerbated because nobody’s leaving (Citizens), because there’s no capacity in the overall marketplace,” Gilway said.

In December, Citizens is expecting the results from a study conducted by Florida State University’s Florida Catastrophic Storm Risk Management Center which looks at what steps the Florida Legislature can take to further reduce exposure and slow down the movement of policies from private market insurers to Citizens.

“We know that a healthy private market reduces Citizens’ size, and in an unhealthy private market we’re going to grow,” Gilway said during the meeting. “Obviously, this is the reason that we requested, and the board approved, the FSU study. But we’ve also got to look around and consider recommendations from board members, from legislators and others that might have some ideas in terms of how we might reduce the overall size and scope of Citizens over time.”

Legally, Citizens has a cap on annual rate increases of 10% while private insurers are free to request rate increases that vary from 12 to 30 percent. As an example, The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation had a public hearing recently for a proposal by First Community Insurance Co. who is requesting a rate increase that averages 24.5%.

In 2019, Citizens board of directors approved a statewide average increase of 8.2%. Despite the increase, Citizens is still the most competitive company in rate comparisons 85% of the time in prime markets around the state, making it unlikely they will be moving customers into the private insurance market.

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