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State regulators approve Citizens rate hikes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Sept. 9, 2015 – State-owned Citizens Property Insurance Corp. received approval for 2016 rate changes on Tuesday, with some tweaks to their original proposal that’s expected to spread additional costs to policyholders in coastal areas.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved average rate changes equating to 1.8 percent on residential multi-peril accounts – an increase from the 1.3 percent requested by Citizens. The office also set an average 8.3 percent increase for residential wind-only policies; Citizens had asked for 9 percent.

“The office modified some of Citizens’ recommended rates to address key issues cited as causes for increasing homeowners’ insurance costs for policyholders in South Florida and on the coast,” Citizens said in a release.

The new rates will vary by county and a property’s location, home style and type of policy. There’s a great chance policyholders in Southeast Florida will see a rate increase compared to homeowners in other parts of the state.

Even with the rate increases, Citizens expects overall rates to come down for about 60 percent of its policyholders. The order includes no changes for sinkhole coverage, though it increases rates on mobile home coverage.

The order, which came two weeks after a public hearing on Citizens’ 2016 rate proposal, also advises Citizens not to pass the cost of reinsurance on to policyholders; instead, reinsurance should be treated as an expense, according to Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier. Reinsurance is effectively backup coverage for insurers if they’re called up to cover large claims.

Florida insurance consumer advocate Sha’Ron James had earlier asked Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty to “strongly consider” the large amount of reinsurance purchased by Citizens before making any decision on the company’s requested rate hike.

Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway argued during last month’s public hearing that a “disturbing” rise in water-damage claims in South Florida had driven the need for much of the proposed rate increases.

Citizens entered the six-month Atlantic storm season with a $7.5 billion surplus, the highest in its history, and $3.9 billion in reinsurance coverage from private, offshore firms.

The new rates go into effect Feb. 1.

“Today’s decision by the Office of Insurance Regulation reflects Citizens’ success in reducing exposure and returning to its role as the state’s insurer of last resort,” Gilway said Tuesday in a release.

Citizens has dropped its number of policies from 1.5 million in 2012 to 589,456 policies as of July 31. Gilway said he expects the number of policies to be just above 500,000 by the end of the year.

Source: News Service of Florida, Jim Turner  
Source: Florida Realtors Feed

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