How Florida homeowners can protect themselves as insurance rates spike, insurers decline to renew policies

How Florida homeowners can protect themselves as insurance rates spike, insurers decline to renew policies

Picture this: You’re a Florida homeowner. Nothing has changed with your property in the last year, or the contents you’re insuring or your deductibles. You’ve also never even filed a claim, but your home insurance policy comes in the mail – with a new rate that is through the roof.

Tasha Carter, the state’s advocate for insurance customers, said she’s received many calls from worried consumers over the last several months.

“One consumer who reached out to me was astonished on how significantly his insurance premium increased – it increased about 61 percent between this year and last year,” she said. 

Claims amounting to billions of dollars from Hurricanes Irma and Michael, combined with insurance fraud litigation have increased costs in the industry. Insurers are blaming roofing contractors and public adjusters for the fraud.

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“They use these abusive marketing tactics and solicitation tactics to convince homeowners to file an insurance claim,” Carter said. “And they do that by promising they can get them a new roof with no money out of their pocket.”

She expects insurers to drop those who live in older homes or in high-risk areas – but if that’s you, she said, shop around.

“While there is limited capacity in the market, there still are insurance carriers who are writing policies,” Carter said.

READ: Florida property owners facing homeowner insurance ‘crisis,’ lawmaker says

You can reduce your premium by taking advantage of discounts – or bundle with your auto insurance.

“You also may be able to expand the reduction on the windstorm portion of your premium if you add some additional hurricane mitigation features to your home, such as window shudders or roof attachments as well,” she said.

In the past year, four companies have declined to renew more than 120,000 policies, and two others have gone bankrupt. 

Progressive was among the ones to deny customers’ renewals “due to risks that do not comply with our underwriting guidelines,” according to Progressive Public Relations representative Jeff Sibel.

And most recently, Lexington insurance company stated it will no longer write new policies in Florida. 

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A special session on the crisis has the support of Governor Ron DeSantis and legislators are being polled now to see if they’ll support one.

“More work needs to be done in order to protect our consumers,” Carter said.

Right now, the Florida Secretary of State is preparing a letter to poll legislators – according to Sen. Brandes, lawmakers will be polled over the next seven days – and 3/5 of the legislature needs to vote for it for the session to occur. 

From there, legislators must convene within 14-21 days for the session. Sen. Brandes, who is confident the session will happen, said it could happen toward the end of April.

A previous version of this story stated Progressive insurance company stated it would no longer write new policies in Florida.