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Explaining Florida's rising property insurance rates

4:04 PM, Feb 25, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida has not been hit by a hurricane for six years, yet property insurance rates continue to climb.

Wrapping your head around that reality is tough for a lot of Floridians -- it doesn't really make sense.

Leaders of Florida's private insurance industry tried to make sense of it all Monday as they gear up for the upcoming legislative session in Tallahassee.

Lynne McChristian of the Insurance Information Institute displayed a chart that showed property insurance claims in Florida have risen 17 percent a year over the past five years, even with no hurricanes.

McChristian blamed non-catastrophe losses for driving up homeowners' property insurance bills.

"It's probably due to older homes. There are a lot of water losses and also factored in this is the sinkhole losses. We've had, as everyone knows, rising sinkhole claims. Those are considered non-catastrophe losses. But rates are reflective of the losses and losses keep going up."

McChristian said rates are also climbing because building materials are much more expensive now.

"The price of insurance is actually lower now per thousand dollars of homeowners insurance coverage than it was in 2005. What's changed is rebuilding costs have gone up."

McChristian calls the state-operated Citizens Property Insurance Corp. a scary way to handle insurance in Florida because it can charge all Floridians for its losses in the form of assessments on their insurance bills.

She said those charges are spelled out in policies, but people don't read them and don't understand they're getting charged for something that does not give them any coverage.

"You're spending a couple of hundred dollars a year depending on what kind of insurance you have and what your costs are, but you have an assessment on there that you're paying every year and you get no coverage for it and the reason people aren't upset or angered by it is they frankly don't know."

McChristian said Citizens has grown to become the ninth largest insurer in the United States. But while the other largest companies spread their risk across the entire country, Citizens has all of its risk in Florida.

The Florida Insurance Council is urging state lawmakers to reduce Citizens' overall risk and raise the company's rates.

First Coast News

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