Homeowners in Florida May be in for a Rate Increase in 2020

27 Feb

Homeowners in Florida may be in for a price increase in 2020, despite the fact that lawmakers passed an assignment of benefits reform bill las year. Insurers are requesting major price increases this year, it looks like the prediction of higher insurance rates after Hurricane Irma is finally here.

Executives from National Specialty Insurance Co., which currently covers almost 50,000 policyholders in Florida recently appeared at a public hearing in Tallahassee to explain their request for a 28.1% average statewide rate increase.

This comes about a week after Capitol Preferred Insurance Co., which also insures roughly 50,000 people across the state, also had to head to Tallahassee to justify their requested 36.5% rate hike. On average this would push up the cost of homeowners insurance for their customers roughly $40 a month.

On top of all of that, Edison Insurance Co was the subject of hearing in December in regard to their 21.9% rate increase request. This will push up the cost of insurance for its 58,000 Florida customers by about $30 a month. 

Florida law requires a public hearing any time an insurer requests a rate increase over 15 percent which makes three hearings in two months a significant development. Before the Edison hearing in December, the last company to propose rate hikes above the 15 percent threshold was Fidelity National back in 2013 when it asked for a 28.1 percent increase. 

Here are a few other recent rate increase requests that did not require public hearings:

  • 12.4% – Universal Property & Casualty
  • 14.6% – Centauri Specialty
  • 12.1% – Avatar
  • 13.4% – Florida Peninsula 
  • 14.7% – Florida Peninsula’s 55,000 “Elite” policyholders

The Cost of Reinsurance is an Issue

While there were a number of reasons being given for the rate increase requests, the cost of reinsurance is a common thread in all of them. 

Reinsurance is basically insurance for insurers and insurance companies are required to buy it each year to ensure they have enough money to pay all of their claims after a hurricane or other major weather event. 

Before Hurricane Irma, Florida had not seen a major hurricane in a decade which meant that insurers never had to tap their reinsurance policies which brought the cost of reinsurance in the state to record lows. Irma resulted in over a million claims and $11 billion in losses for insurers. 

Insurers were able to make reasonable deals for reinsurance in 2018 because the true cost of Irma was not yet known, unfortunately, those numbers are now in and the cost of reinsurance is headed up. Hurricane Michael hit in 2018 and caused $7.4 billion in damage which resulted in higher reinsurance costs as well. 

In 2019, the cost of reinsurance went up by as much as 25 percent. A.M. Best recently warned that reinsurance costs could be going up by as much as 20 percent this year as well. 

Assignment of benefits (AOB) lawsuits are still an issue and having an impact on rates according to insurance executives. In a recent Sun Sentinel article, James Gragonella, president and CEO of Capitol Preferred, told regulators that lawsuits against his company regarding mainly non-weather-related water damage claims increased from 148 in 2016 to 1,077 in 2019 which is a 72% increase.

If the rate increase for Capitol Preferred is approved, their customers will have endured a 112 percent increase over the last year, due to three other rate increases that have been approved since June of 2019. 

Ratings Downgrades Also an Issue

A number of insurance companies are also facing a financial ratings downgrade which could increase costs and premiums for their customers. In January, Demotech, an industry rating company warned that up to 18 insurance companies in Florida faced ratings downgrades due to eroded financial stability. 

If a company is downgraded from an A level (which is required by federally backed mortgages) their customers will need to seek new policies from an A-rated insurer. 

So far, four companies have been downgraded and those companies were purchased by financially stronger companies. 

Additional downgrades are expected in March which could lead to additional company failures and sales to stronger rivals. 

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