Florida Homeowners Insurance Rate Hikes 2020

23 Jan

According to a recent editorial on Yoursun.com, the legislation passed last year to bring assignment of benefits (AOB) lawsuits to end has not succeeded in bringing down homeowner insurance costs for Florida residents. 

In 2019, zero hurricanes came ashore. In fact, only Hurricane Dorian (which was a category 5) threatened the Sunshine State but ended up staying offshore. “The 2019 Hurricane Season gave Florida a much needed break from major hurricane impacts,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz in a recent press release. 

Despite the fact that there was no hurricane damage last year to eat into insurance companies’ profits and the Florida Legislature finally managed to pass an AOB reform bill, Florida homeowners will most likely see a rate increase again this year. 

The new law was designed to curb AOB abuse which happens when less than honest contractors persuade a homeowner to sign an AOB form which transfers the benefits of the insurance policy to the contractor. It allows them to make decisions about the repair and bill the insurance company directly. These contractors then inflate their bills or even bill for work that has not been done and when the insurance company denies the claim, they sue.

Most insurers found it less expensive to settle the claims rather than going to court but those costs were passed on to all Florida homeowners via higher premiums. The legislation passed last year was designed to limit AOB abuse and hopefully lead to lower premiums. 

Unfortunately, it may take a few years for the benefits of that law to start showing up. “Any lawsuits in the pipeline before (the bill became law) are still in play,” said Jim Nolan owner of Nolan Family Insurance in the YourSun.com article. “We have to let those lawsuits run their course before we see any relief from that law,” he continued. 

Lawsuits Still Being Filed

According to the Sun Sentinel, lawsuits filed against insurance companies went up almost 17 percent in the first 10 months of 2019 when compared to the same time period in 2018. This shook out to 260,810 lawsuits that were filed through October in 2018 which was more than double the 126,011 filed in 2015.

In addition to past lawsuits waiting for their day in court and new lawsuits being filed, there are a couple of other reasons that homeowner rates are still climbing and will continue an upward trend for the foreseeable future. 

New flood maps are on their way and will most likely put more homeowners in flood zones. This means that thousands of Florida homeowners will most likely be required to purchase flood insurance if they have a mortgage and are now in a flood zone. Mortgage lenders typically require any homeowner in a high to medium risk flood zone to carry flood insurance. 

Adding to the pain is the fact that the financial strength ratings for a number of insurance companies in Florida are likely facing a rating downgrade. A recent article in the Sun Sentinel revealed that up to 18 insurers in Florida could see their ratings downgraded in the next few months. If this actually happens, thousands of homeowners may have to find a new insurer as federally backed mortgage lenders only accept insurance companies with 

“A” rating. A lower rating can also increase operating costs for insurers and those costs will most likely be passed onto consumers via higher premiums. 

What Can I Do?

While Florida residents are unlikely to see a decrease in insurance costs any time soon, there are a few things you can try to lower your insurance costs:

Shop Around: This is probably the best way to lower your Florida home insurance premium. Insurers rate risk differently which can result in dramatic price differences. Shop your coverage on a regular basis (once a year) and get quotes from at least 5 different insurers. 

Raise Your Deductible: Insurers love it when you have more skin in the game so raise your deductible for a lower premium. If you can afford to double your deductible you should see a significant discount. Always choose a deductible that you can easily afford in case you have to make a claim on your policy.

Update your Home: Making your home a bit more storm resistant can lead to lower insurance costs. If it’s time for a new roof, consider storm resistant shingles, add storm shutters and even a sprinkler system to get the best rates. 

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