Farmers are just the last domino to fall, the government is watching 18 other home insurers for fear of their financial health.
TALLAHASSEE, Florida. The estimated 100,000 Floridians insured by Farmer’s Insurance will soon be looking for new policies. Farmers are the latest domino to fall in the state’s ongoing property insurance crisis, and Tallahassee has already begun pointing the blame.
“We warned ahead of time that conditions could potentially worsen before they improved,” said Mark Friedländer of the Insurance Information Institute.
This is the only way to sum up the state of the property insurance market in Florida right now.
In the past 18 months, when two special legislative sessions have been held on the subject; seven insurers have gone bankrupt, 15 have stopped writing policies, and now a fourth is leaving the state.
“The constant volatility in the private market has certainly led to a dangerous situation for many consumers,” Friedländer added.
In a scathing statement, Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis vowed to hold Farmers Insurance accountable, saying they were playing politics and their actions were “less reflective of the Florida market and more reflective of the bad management of the insurance company.”
Patronis, state Republican legislators and industry experts believe that the government’s reforms to resolve frivolous litigation will have a positive impact on the market over time.
“We have been very supportive of the reform bills that have been passed and signed into law, and we believe they will bring stability to the Florida property insurance market,” Friedlander added.
“While our reforms will take time to take effect, we are putting in place the right systems to strengthen our insurance market and give Florida residents access to the insurance coverage and peace of mind they need for their property,” Speaker of the House Florida Representatives Paul Renner, Republican. Palm Coast,” he tweeted.
Though the state’s Democratic lawmakers say not enough is being done, blaming the Republican leadership for failing to keep up with rising costs.
“If the lawsuits are the reason farmers don’t host the site, that’s one of the reasons they’re leaving this market,” State Rep. Fentris Driskell said at a news conference on Wednesday. “Let me just say this to clear things up. The trickle-down economy is not working, and neither is the trickle-down property insurance assistance,” Driskell added, referring to the $3 billion the government has put into a reinsurance fund for insurance companies.
While many insurers are wondering what’s next and dealing with rising premiums, the State’s Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) is currently concerned about 18 other companies on the watch list.
“18 out of 47 Florida insurance companies are on this list. This is really our biggest problem right now,” Friedländer explained, because in the past we have seen some watchlist companies fail. We do not predict this. We certainly don’t expect that to happen.”
Thousands of homeowners will soon receive a non-renewal notice, but it’s not just a farmer’s insurance issue, more and more Floridians are getting it as the market struggles.
Under state law, consumers must be notified by their insurers 120 days prior to refusing to renew. So what steps should Florida residents take if their insurance coverage ends?
We spoke with Katie Walsh, owner of Coast to Coast Insurance in Tampa. She says the first thing you should do is call your insurance agent.
“See if the agent offers other options, they may have other markets and they may have a Citizens choice. Citizens is not the choice for every homeowner, but for most of the industry,” Walsh said.
You are eligible for Citizens’ government-supported program (which is approaching a record number of policies) only if you were not offered coverage by anyone else or if the premiums offered were 20% more than Citizens.
The second thing the agent will most likely tell you to do is check your home and make sure your roof isn’t too old.
“The first thing to do is the age of the roof,” Walsh added. “If the house is 20 years old or older, they must pass a four-point test and a wind attenuation test. They need these things so we can go ahead and look at the market for them.”
She says homeowners need to act quickly and not expect to shop around.
“The market is small,” Cathy added. “It’s not about where I can get a price, it’s about where I can get coverage for my home.”
The State Consumer Advocate can also help Florida residents with insurance matters and even has the resources to show you what fair rates are in your area. Of course, you will pay much more than the national average.