By Calum MacKenzie
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and other destructive storms, getting affordable property insurance hasn’t been easy. Many private insurers shed high risk clients after storms in 2004-2005, and raised assessments for others. For those who could no longer afford private insurance (or who were declared uninsurable by private insurers), state insurer Citizens Property Insurance Corp is the last resort.
Over the last year, the state has been attempting to keep property insurance rates low for those who are insured with CPIC. According to critics of the latest property insurance changes, however, Florida residents who are insured by private companies will end up paying more so that the rates can stay low for those insured by the state-owned company. The last week of March saw the Florida Senate approve some changes to property insurance that might end up increasing property insurance rates by around 3%.
The bill was backed by Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and approved by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. The intended effect is to reduce Florida’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund by $3 billion. This means the state can reduce its investment in CPIC and therefore reduce its risk.
At the same time, however, the state has also voted to freeze CPIC insurance rates through to the end of 2009. CPIC insures more than 1.3 Florida residents, and the rate freeze that occurred last year was done to avoid an increase that could have seen rates up by as much as 29%.
The problem is, according to critics, that CPIC’s premiums aren’t high enough, and that the company won’t have enough cash reserves to be able to pay out claims if a major storm hits.
This is why the $3 billion reduction in the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund is significant. The Catastrophe Fund is a sort of safety net that can kick into action when Florida is hit by a major hurricane, and is intended to reimburse private insurers a portion of the money they pay out in claims. However, with the fund now reduced by $3 billion, the deficit is likely to be made up by rate increases for homeowners.
Last year, the state actually increased the Catastrophe Fund by $12 billion, but this year has been reduced by $3 billion. The fund was increased last year to reduce costs for insurers, and indirectly for homeowners. However, by increasing the Catastrophe Fund, the state of Florida was also increasing its own level of risk.
The state now wants to start decreasing its investment in the fund to reduce its risk. The net effect, however, will likely be the opposite of that which it originally intended. With private insurers taking on more risk relative to last year, the end result is more than likely going to be increased property insurance rates. The estimate is around 3% overall, with a slightly higher increase possible for Southern Florida residents.
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink admits that an increase in rates is possible, but also says that if insurers try to increase rates to an unreasonable level, the state will step in.
About the Author: Calum MacKenzie is Owner of Real Living Southern Homes a leading residential real estate brokerage located within Seven Oaks in Wesley Chapel, Florida and also serving the Tampa Florida real estate and Land O’ Lakes real estate markets.
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