By Caden DeLisa
The Capitolist
April 2, 2022

 

The number of Florida property insurance firms in liquidation is up to seven since 2014, according to the office of state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. St. Johns Insurance and Avatar Property and Casualty Insurance have been deemed insolvent in recent weeks, rounding out the list of agencies. Property insurance has been a pressing issue for Floridians as of late, with rising costs and high rates of dropped coverage leading to an influx of enrollees to the state-backed Citizens Insurance.

The seven agencies — American Capital Assurance Corporation, Avatar Property and Casualty Insurance Company, Florida Specialty Insurance Company, Gulfstream Property and Casualty Insurance Company, Sawgrass Mutual Insurance Company, St. Johns Insurance Company, and Sunshine State Insurance Company — were deemed insolvent and entered liquidation, resulting in a vacuum for Floridians as they scramble to acquire new coverage.

The insolvency of St. Johns Insurance in particular was a big blow to Florida’s increasingly volatile insurance market. In early February, St. John’s became the 6th carrier this year that pulled out of Florida, citing an unstable market and heightened levels of risk due to worsening storm seasons and aging infrastructure. St. John’s held over 160,000 policies, according to the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. Slide, an insurance company based in Tampa, agreed to take on most of the St. Johns policies in Florida, though coverage costs are expected to jump.

During the most recent Legislative Session, property insurance reform was considered to be a leading issue needing resolution by some politicians, such as Sen. Jeff Brandes.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck situation. We are not far off from homeowners paying more for insurance premiums than the mortgage,” said Brandes. “Florida’s property insurance rates are going up 30% a year, how much money does the state spend on research property insurance…zero.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis committed to tackling the insurance monster looming down on residents and lawmakers alike, albeit later this year. DeSantis called for a special session on Tuesday to settle redistricting disputes, but when asked if property insurance would be discussed when politicians return to Tallahassee in mid-April, DeSantis emphasized that drawing maps is the priority.

However, DeSantis said that a special session for property insurance is in the cards, and will be held no later than the midterm elections in November.

“There is going to be a need to do more legislative reforms. and we were very clear about that during the (2022) session,” DeSantis said during a state Cabinet meeting Tuesday. “You know, we may have another bite of the apple very, very shortly. But we need to just understand that there is going to be a need for the Legislature to do more. [We] will not wait until the actual session in 2023. It will be done this year.”

Last week, Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway projected his company could have more than 1 million policies by the end of this year, as it adds roughly 5,500 policies a week. As of last week, Citizens had 801,341 policies, up from 570,000 a year ago. Senate President Wilton Simpsontold reporters on March 11 the Senate had a “pretty good bill” on property insurance and that there is a chance lawmakers would be called back to Tallahassee as “we have many companies going out of business.” But those comments followed Simpson saying the property insurance changes made during the 2021 session need time to take hold, according to Law.com.

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Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes
4 months ago

The property insurance industry in Florida is a good example of how free market capitalism does not always work. Policies are becoming more and more concentrated in just a few companies, and it won’t be long before there will be a cartel of companies able to control prices, terms, and their own profits. It is time for our state government to create a public non-profit property insurance company so that Florida property owners can be covered for losses without the extortive practices of a monopoly-run industry. Just like we all chip in for roads, fire and police protection, libraries, etc., we can all chip in for property insurance, at a fraction of the cost of current rates.

Steve Vogel
Steve Vogel
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tomes

Isn’t that what Citizen’s Insurance is?

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr.
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Vogel

It’s only as good as it’s solvency.

John Goshco
John Goshco
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tomes

We already have what you are asking for.

Thirty years ago, after Hurricane Andrew, many of the free market capitalists either declared bankruptcy or left the Florida market due to paying out more in claims than they had collected in premiums and held in reserves.

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation was created 20 years ago as a non-profit, tax exempt government entity as an insurer of last resort. Essentially, Citizens covers the highest risk properties, thus encouraging the “greedy” insurance companies remain in Florida to cover the medium and low risk properties.

Unfortunately, the realities of the marketplace dictate that as claims increase, so must everyone’s premiums. Only the federal government can spend more than it takes in and, eventually, all of us pay for the interest on those federal bonds.

Adam LeBlanc
Adam LeBlanc
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tomes

The “state” insurance companies often do much worse than their free market counterparts. Here in Louisiana, a state with some of the highest premium, the state insurance is just for risks that are too high to qualify for free market carriers resulting in the most expensive premiums.

Unfortunately you can’t get good coverage in high risk areas of the country like a state that has a whole season known as hurricane season for low cost.

Insurance companies have to make some money in order to function and most times the state increases that insureds get so offended by are because of laws put in place by the state due to research that indicates there could be insolvency issues.

The last thing insureds want is for a company to go bankrupt right after their home has been destroyed, as is the last thing a state wants is a housing crises because one of its largest P&C carriers went under.

There are no insurance “cartels” just companies you don’t like because they charge a little more a month then the other company. What your failing to see is they charge a little more than the other so they have the ability to absorb millions if not billions of dollars of loss for hundreds of thousands of insureds not just you and your individual assets.

It would be a different artical if companies were going insolvent because the larger “cartel” carriers were undercutting their prices.

But, it is the opposite. Most of these companies go insolvent because they undercut the others and take on too many risks with out the ability to absorb the losses and then when a bad hurricane season rolls around they pull out of that state or just go under.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner
4 months ago

With pressure on real property prices pushing valuations through the roof, it’s not hard to see why insurance companies don’t want to assume the risks. Especially, here, flood insurance.

Mark Shafer
Mark Shafer
4 months ago
Reply to  Robert Warner

Flood insurance is a federal program not state.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Shafer

I know. Mine capped out at $250,000. USAA and FEMA. Reliance on State coverage, alone, is risky.

John Goshco
John Goshco
4 months ago
Reply to  Robert Warner

And wind insurance, which can apply to properties quite a bit inland from the coast.

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr.
4 months ago
Reply to  John Goshco

Different problem. Different risk profile.

Richard Norman Kurpiers
Richard Norman Kurpiers
4 months ago
Reply to  Robert Warner

But in most cases, insurance premiums are based on replacement costs so should be somewhat immune from rising house values due to market demand. OTOH, recent supply chain shortages have driven the cost of materials up so yes, that would affect replacement costs.

Dennis Schiaroli
Dennis Schiaroli
4 months ago

it appears that Roofing companies may have had a hand in putting insurance companies in trouble.

Mark Shafer
Mark Shafer
4 months ago

No doubt about that. That was the point of recent legislation passed by Florida legislature and signed by Governor DeSantis. Shaky roof claims will no longer get full reimbursement as before.

Adam LeBlanc
Adam LeBlanc
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Shafer

Roofers will literally tell potential customers “Don’t replace your 20, 30, 40, year old roof just wait till the next big storm then I’ll help you get a brand new roof and your insurance company will pay for most of it”

Edwin Gonzalez
Edwin Gonzalez
4 months ago

Insurance over price home value increase premium tell home owner to get new roof water heaters air conditioner or deny insurance. What a mafia.

Adam LeBlanc
Adam LeBlanc
4 months ago
Reply to  Edwin Gonzalez

A roof is something that wears out over time. Insurance is not for maintenance.

Your auto insurance will not pay for your new tires you need to replace or the oil/break changes you should get.

Should insurance companies pay 10k-20k in water damages because a 20 yr water heater busted in the attic that the homeowner was too cheap to replace a 1k appliance that was at the end of its life a decade ago??

I think you are getting insurance confused with a home warranty program. Everyone seems to hate insurance companies until they get paid for a total loss.

Insurance companies can’t afford to run around every 10 years and give everyone free 20k dollar roofs on 1k sq foot homes that they only make 1k dollars in premium every year on.

P L Moore
P L Moore
4 months ago

My experience is Citizens is less than the now mia insurance company I had. By almost half… affordable.

Barbara Sbrocco
Barbara Sbrocco
2 months ago
Reply to  P L Moore

I hope you’re right, since they’re my only hope with a 22-year-old roof and a homeowner’s insurance co that just went belly up. USAA told me that THREE insurance companies have gone belly up in a month and they are scrambling to deal with all the panicked homeowners (like me)

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