A dozen insurance companies have fled or failed Florida during the last ten years. Twelve insurance companies could not stay in business here and we haven’t suffered a catastrophe since Hurricane Wilma in October of 2005.
Robert Trigaux wrote an on-point article for the Tampa Bay Times last week that has some very important data for policyholders who own property in Florida, and their insurance situation.
The point Trigaux makes is that while June 1 marks the beginning of hurricane season, it is unknown if the small and/or new insurance companies can withstand a storm.
The 2004 and 2005 storm seasons caused devastation for Florida, no doubt about it, but is our current insurance market in a position to even withstand one bad storm?
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation has worked to depopulate its book of insureds and pass them on to other carriers. Some have been in business for less than a year and have never weathered a storm. As Trigaux reports, the number of policyholders with Citizens was 1.5 million in 2005, but that number had dropped to 600,000 by March of this year.
On the bright side, the board of Citizens, still Florida’s largest property insurer, recently approved spending $300 million to buy reinsurance, or backup coverage, worth $3.9 billion that officials say should help it avoid bailout fees even after a once-a-century storm.
The not-so-good news is that $300 million is now spent money that otherwise might have been put in the company’s surplus to grow and pay claims in future years. Instead, Citizens is better protected against possible assessments to its customers and those of other insurers from a storm with an estimated 1 percent chance of happening this year.
So, can the new insurance companies handle it? We had 119 insurance companies in Florida, but in the last ten years a dozen have failed and eight of those twelve had take-out policies from Citizens. Insurance Commissioner McCarty raised the amount of capital required to be an insurance company in the Sunshine State; previously just 5 million was enough but that has been upgraded to 15 million.
State regulators swear they are monitoring the financial soundness and management expertise of these youngster companies.
Yet according to one market analysis, of the 761,000 policies that were transferred out of Citizens between 2007 and 2011, nearly 40 percent have returned, as insurers went under or wary customers dropped the new coverage.
There is no easy answer for policyholders trying to ensure they have quality coverage in case of a storm but there are three resources for policyholders to use to research their insurance company: A.M. Best, DemoTech, and Weiss Ratings. Tampa Bay Times point out that at least one of these ratings companies may be failing too.
Six insurance companies between 2006 and 2011 that received takeout policies from Citizens and then failed with taxpayer costs in the hundreds of millions. All six, the analysis notes, were rated "A" by DemoTech.
Be wise when making your insurance decisions and when presenting a claim because your home and business often need extra protection in Florida.
Pictured below is devastation in Punta Gorda from Hurricane Charlie back in 2004.