Good & Bad News for Florida’s Homeowners Insurance Market

21 Feb

The Florida homeowners market has been in turmoil for years. Sky-high premiums have become the norm due to fraud and lawsuits by less than honest roofing companies. Florida currently has some of the highest homeowner insurance rates in the country and while there is some good news on the horizon, there is plenty of bad news as well. 

We thought it might be a good idea to look at both the good and bad news coming out of the Florida insurance market. Let’s cover the bad news first.

Reinsurance costs are still headed up

Florida has been suffering from homeowner rate increases for years and it’s possible that homeowners won’t see any relief this year either. In a recent article, John Rollins, former Chief Risk Officer at Citizens Property Insurance, pointed out that over past four years, policy rates have gone up 50% for Floridians. He said in the article that industry experts, as well as various state officials, expect reinsurance costs to go up between 40% to 50% or more in June which will impact homeowner rates. 

Reinsurance is insurance for insurance companies, and it helps them cover the cost of major storms when hundreds or thousands of claims hit at once. The higher cost of reinsurance is typically passed on to homeowners via higher premiums.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that there have now been two special sessions of the Florida Legislature to find fixes for the coverage crisis, the insurance market continues to struggle. 

The sad fact is that none of the legislation passed in the special sessions on property insurance will directly impact the home insurance rates being paid by residents of the Sunshine State anytime soon. The legislation is more focused on making the insurance business climate in Florida more attractive to insurers by attempting to adjust the reinsurance market. It will also start to reform property insurance litigation which will hopefully lead to lower premiums in the future but probably won’t have a major impact in the short term.

The legislation will help Citizens Property which is the insurer of last resort in Florida. Due to rising premiums and insurers leaving he market, Citizens is now the largest property insurer in the state. Citizens Property currently has 1,177,027 policies in force which is nearly double the volume at the end of 2021.

The cost of reinsurance is a major cost for most insurance companies and the cost has been going up in recent years “At the trough in 2018, reinsurance costs were around 30% of premium, but several years of abrupt hikes after stormy years have pushed it closer to 50% now,” Rollins said in the article. 

The cost of reinsurance combined with the fraud issues in the state continue to lead to higher premiums for homeowners. According to the article, a Tampa Bay teacher watched her premium increase from $4,000 to almost $7,000 in December. The insurance company, Security First, claimed the premium increase was due to the cost of reinsurance, litigation, and fraud, as well as an increased cost to building materials in Florida.

While most of the news for homeowners in Florida is less than positive and the recent changes won’t immediately lower homeowner costs, there is some hope for the future.

Legislation may lower rates in the future

A recent issues brief from the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) said that the new legislation in Florida could potentially lower the cost of homeowners’ insurance in the state.

“Reforms put in place in the closing weeks of 2022 and proposed in the first quarter of 2023 suggest Florida is now quite serious about fixing the fraud and legal system abuse that have contributed to the state’s insurance crisis,” Triple-I said in the recent release. 

While the reforms may impact rates in the future, premiums will most likely not be dropping in the near future. “It will take years for the impacts of fraud and legal system abuse to be wrung out of the system and for policyholders to experience premium benefits. Job 1 is to ‘stop the bleeding’ as insurers fail, leave the state, or stop writing critical personal lines coverages like auto and homeowners,” the issue brief read.

The Florida’s Senate Bill 2A, passed the state legislature in December 2022 and was later signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis.

Currently, Florida accounts for roughly 80% of America’s homeowners’ insurance lawsuits, while only being responsible for 9% of all US homeowners’ insurance claims which is one of the major reasons why Florida’s home insurance companies have cumulatively incurred net underwriting losses of more than $1 billion in both 2020 and 2021.

Six insurers operating in Florida’s home insurance market became insolvent in 2022 while numerous other companies left the state entirely or limited the type of policies being sold in the state. 

“Legislation approved during Florida’s late 2022 special session eliminated “one-way attorney fees” for property insurance claims. Before the reform, state law required insurers to pay the fees of policyholders who successfully sued over claims, while shielding policyholders from paying insurers’ attorney fees when the policyholders lose,” the Triple-I brief pointed out.

In addition, the legislation eliminated the practice of assignment of benefits (AOBs) agreements. AOB’s allow a property owner to sign over their claims to contractors who then file a claim with the insurer. Unfortunately, AOBs were often abused by contractors and roofing companies. 

“AOBs are a standard practice in insurance, but in Florida this consumer-friendly convenience has long served as a magnet for fraud,” the brief stated “The state’s legal environment – including some of the most generous attorney-fee mechanisms in the country – has encouraged vendors and their attorneys to solicit unwarranted AOBs from tens of thousands of Floridians, conduct unnecessary or unnecessarily expensive work, then file lawsuits against insurers that deny or dispute the claims.”

The Triple-I is hopeful that these changes will result in lower premiums over time, but it could take years for Florida homeowner insurance rates to drop for consumers. 

For help with your Florida home insurance coverage, please call us at 888-685-4704 to review rates and coverage options that best fit your needs or request quotes online now. We look forward to working with you!

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