Insurance rates at Citizens Property Insurance Corp. — the state-run insurer of last resort — are headed higher again.
Citizens’ board, meeting in Miami Wednesday, voted to boost overall rates by about 7.5 percent for 2014.
And that will be for policyholders that don’t get dumped entirely by Citizens, which is pursuing aggressive plans to jettison hundreds of thousands of property owners.
The goal of the politically buffeted company: reduce its risk and return to its role of insuring those Floridians with no alternatives.
“The board continues to make the tough but necessary decisions while recognizing the impact on Citizens policyholders,” Citizens president and CEO Barry Gilway said in a statement after the vote to hike rates.
Single-family homeowners will see an average rate increase of 6.2 percent, excluding optional sinkhole coverage, while condo unit owners will face an average 8 percent rate increase in 2014.
Commercial rates are to rise 9.1 percent on average.
Rates for sinkhole coverage — which is not covered by a 10 percent annual cap on increases — is projected to rise much more than other coverage. In Florida’s west coast counties like Hernando and Pasco, sinkhole rates will rise 20 percent, under the board’s action. Hillsborough County will see sinkhole rates jump by 50 percent.
In Pasco County, premiums for optional sinkhole coverage alone cost homeowners about $1,800 a year. But that is still far below the “actuarially sound” rates, the levels that risk experts calculate rates should be to cushion against potential losses.
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation must approve the proposed rates before they take effect. That seems very likely because Citizens’ board based the hikes on OIR’s own calculations of how much the company needs to cover risks next year.
Individual premiums vary dramatically depending on a host of factors such as the location, age, type of construction and storm protection, and coverage options.
The rate hike comes as Florida’s property-insurance landscape is in flux while Citizens moves to foster the growth of small Florida-domiciled firms in a bid to shift risk to the private sector.
Among the most controversial moves: Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Co. — a St. Petersburg-based company that was created last year and made major political contributions to Gov. Rick Scott — will get up to $52 million from Citizens to assume up to 60,000 Citizens’ policies.
Many Citizens’ policyholders have been receiving notices their policies are being assumed by companies such as Heritage.
In order to stay with Citizens, policyholders must affirmatively choose Citizens. If they do nothing, they will end up with the private company.
“Consumers are confused. They see letters they are going to be transferred from Citizens to another company,” said David Kramarz, an account executive with Anderson & Jacoby Insurance Consultants in Miami. “They wonder why they have to opt in [to keep Citizens,] instead of opt out. And they’re unsure of these new carriers — as are we — as far as their financial strength. It puts us in a difficult position. We don’t know if they’re in it for the long haul or they’re going to pack up and leave.”