I was surprised when I first saw the Sun-Sentinel article, Citizens files request for 72-hour deadline to report loss. The more I read and thought about the article the angrier I became. As I have written in the past, Florida policyholders continue to pay the highest property insurance rates in the country despite the fact that no serious hurricane has hit the state in years.1
Not only are our rates the highest, the actual coverage being offered is less inclusive. According to the insurance industry, the evisceration of coverage is necessary to combat forces driving up premiums. Coverages for sinkhole and water damage are drastically limited; changes are made to ACV/RCV payments; and Citizens has restricted coverage for high end homes and attached structures. Take a look at the following picture that reflects the rate requests made by Citizens earlier this year:
After all of the favorable legislation and coverage restrictions, the policyholders of Citizens will reap the “benefit” of a 1.3% increase (on average). Seriously? If the restrictions in coverage were implemented to combat the cost drivers increasing premiums….why don’t the premiums go down when the coverages are reduced? And no, the correct answer is not that the rate increases would have been even higher if Citizens hadn’t reduced its coverages. If you don’t remember, take a look at this blog post where Citizens requested a massive rate increase after the passage of the most anti-consumer legislation in recent memory.
Notwithstanding all of these past restrictions, Citizens now has the gall to request permission to require policyholders to notify their insurance agents or Citizens within 72 hours after they discover loss or damage, or “within 72 hours after you knew or should have known of the loss or damage.” This language will be used to deny a significant number of otherwise valid water damage claims. Citizens would tell you that is a good thing. I would argue that it is a bad thing. Eliminating valid claims based on an arbitrary time limitation is ludicrous. Making it more and more difficult to make a claim does not equal victory in the property insurance arena. Moving the goalpost and changing what constitutes a “valid” claim does nothing but hurt policyholders and allow Citizens to issue a heartless press release congratulating itself over a reduction in claims. These insureds will still have water damage and will still need money to repair the damage. Unfortunately, if Citizens is allowed to make this change, many policyholders will not have coverage. Yet another insulting example of policyholders getting shafted with a promise of future premium reduction. The next time we see significant premium reduction as a result of all these anti-consumer coverage changes will be the first time.