Hurricane season just ended in Florida without any significant storm landing on our shores. As noted in Slow hurricane season could spell relief for Citizens Property Insurance policyholders,11 the 9-year break from storms should have stabilized the property insurance market and led to reduced premiums for policyholders. Unfortunately, the reality is a bit different. The article is correct in pointing out that Citizens Property Insurance Company has been able to reduce its exposure by transitioning its policies into the private market. However, this effort by Citizens to shed policies is a result of recent and concerted efforts by the legislature and Citizens to address the number of policies in its portfolio. In fact, Citizens reached a peak of 1.5 million policyholders in August of 2012. Thus, I believe the Citizens’ declining policy count is more a result of recent legislation and efforts as opposed to the 9-year break from storms. It should also be noted that there is significant debate about whether Citizens should be transitioning its policies to “take out” companies with unproven financial and customer service track records. We can talk more about that debate in another blog.
The article also suggests that the 9-year break “could” lead to lower rates. So far, it hasn’t. . . and policyholders should not hold their breath. Homeowners’ insurance rates in Florida are still among the highest in the United States. Why are rates so high despite no hurricanes in 9 years? We have heard all types or reasons – Lawyers? Public adjusters? Sinkholes? South Florida water claims? That is the $64,000 question and one that we can discuss in another blog. But given the legislative changes regarding claims handling (especially sinkhole claims), these “reasons” seem to be excuses.
The point is this; the 9-year break from hurricanes “should” have led to a lot of positive developments in the property insurance arena. Unfortunately, it did not. Over the past 9 years, we have seen rate increases and the evisceration of policyholder protection laws. The justification for such changes was always the same – “if” we make these anti-consumer changes we can attract more companies to the state and reduce premiums for the homeowner. Unfortunately, the last 9 years haven’t been as kind to consumers as they “could” have. Reminds me of a song by Lou Rawls…
If I coulda woulda shoulda, that’s what folks always say
If I coulda woulda shoulda, and its always to late
I’m sayin it now
I’m sayin it now
1 Janelle Irwin, SaintPetersBlog, Dec, 3, 2014, available at http://www.saintpetersblog.com/archives/169066 (last viewed on Dec. 9, 2014).