As Florida seeks to revive its private home insurance market after almost a decade without a hurricane, homeowners are pouring $6 billion a year in premiums into a new generation of small, in-state insurance companies with an unproven record of withstanding a major hurricane.

A consumer-oriented rating agency, Weiss Ratings, recently awarded the companies a median grade of C-minus, and even without a major storm to drive up claims, 11 of them have already failed in Florida since 2006, according to state records.

“This is an accident waiting to happen,” said Gavin Magor, senior financial analyst with Weiss, a national agency with a reputation for tough ratings based in Jupiter, Florida.

Responding to the Weiss ratings, Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, a trade association, said all the companies meet state regulations, noting that other rating agencies gave higher grades.

“Things are moving in the right direction for Florida in attracting private capital. The risk has been diversified and there’s clearly an appetite for this new risk,” said Hartwig.

Almost 80 per cent of Florida’s insured residential and commercial property, valued at about $3 trillion, lies in coastal areas vulnerable to both wind damage and flooding, according to risk modeling experts.

State officials have encouraged the growth of the private market in recent years, seeking to downsize the overloaded state-run Citizens Property Insurance Co., which ballooned as it took on policies after the major companies withdrew.

The major insurers have stayed away from Florida, saying state regulators require rates that are too low to make the risk of doing business profitable.

Citizens remains the single largest carrier in the state, with 14.5 percent market share.

I think we all know that what we have here in Florida is not what we want, but it is all we have. Citizens is not a great place to be and the Private market provides better policies and coverage so we need these new smaller carriers. We need them because the big carriers like State Farm, All State, GEICO, Progressive, Traveler’s, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide and even USAA have all stopped writing new business here in Florida. I think the real question is why is this being allowed when they write business in other states? They should be told to write all lines of business at some price or leave the state!!! No one is willing to tell them this and stand up to them so this is what we have left to deal with. Lawmakers in Tallahassee do not want to do things that make waves because this will not get them re-elected!!!
Please call L & S Insurance at 1-888-244-7400 for quotes on Home, Auto, Flood, Business & Commercial, & Life & Financial products as well.

Please enjoy the full article below;

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2014/09/11/340172.htm

Democrat Charlie Crist said he successfully reduced rising property insurance rates as governor and will do so again if elected, vowing to repeal a law enacted under Republican Gov. Rick Scott that he said provides weaker coverage at a higher price.

It’s a familiar theme for Crist, who campaigned in 2006 on a pledge to lower insurance rates that were skyrocketing after eight hurricanes battered Florida in two years. One of his first acts as governor was to call a special session to deal with rising rates. Lawmakers expanded the amount of state-sponsored reinsurance, which brought down costs for private carriers, and froze rates by the state-created Citizen’s Property Insurance Corp., which took on more policies as national companies backed away from Florida.

Minutes after Crist’s announcement, the Office of Insurance Regulation announced that it approved the removal of 428,000 policies from Citizens to private companies. In all, nearly 900,000 policies have been approved for removal as the state tries to reduce the number of Citizens policies. Customers can choose to remain with Citizens.

Scott signed a bill his first year in office designed to attract more insurance companies to Florida. Consumer advocates and legislative critics said it would raise rates by up to 15 percent while taking away benefits from customers. Crist vetoed a similar bill the year before.

Scott’s campaign criticized Crist’s insurance policies for putting more of a burden on state government.

“Florida taxpayers were left on the hook for billions and homeowners were left with fewer options to protect their property,” said Scott spokesman Matt Moon in an email to reporters. “Under Governor Scott, Florida has done the exact opposite, reforming and shrinking Citizens Insurance while giving consumers more choice and competition to protect their home.”

I am not a fan of either of them, but under Governor Scott, the Insurance Industry is definitely way more stabile than it has ever been and we have more carriers writing business than ever before! Please call L & S INsurance at 1-888-244-7400 for quotes on Home, Auto, Flood, Business & Commercial, & Life & Financial products as well. Please enjoy the full article below;

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2014/09/08/339865.htm

Is this good or bad for Fort Lauderdale & S> Florida?? You decide! Please call L & S Insurance at 1-888-244-7400 for quotes on Home, Auto, Flood, Business & Commercial & Life & Financial products as well.

 

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. officials in a public hearing before the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) painted a picture of an insurer that has downsized significantly while financially improving over the last several years.

Citizens President Barry Gilway said that the insurer in the past two years has gone from an entity “out of control” when it came to growth to one that is returning to being the insurer of last resort.

“I think we are at a better place than we have been in a decade,” said Gilway.

Regulators have 45 days in which to make a decision on the rate filing.

Gilway said that several factors are driving the proposed rate changes including the lack of any hurricane losses over the past eight years and five years of rate increases under the glide-path regulation that caps annual proposed rate increases at 10 percent.

According to Citizens documents, those factors have allowed the insurer to reach rate adequacy throughout the state with the exception of a few coastal counties where the insurer provides wind-only coverage.

As a result the insurer is requesting an average 5.8 percent decrease for homeowners multi-peril policies and a 3.8 percent average increase in homeowners wind-only policies.

Citizens Chief Risk Officer John Rollins said that barring a major storm, these trends should continue.

“There is so much uncertainty, so many unknowns,” said Gilway.

Gilway also said the insurer has achieved a level of stability due to the insurer’s ability to depopulate and secure reinsurance and catastrophic bonds at favorable rates.

Two years ago, Citizens had more than 1.5 million policies in force, which according to A.M. Best made it the ninth largest insurer in the country. At that point, the insurer’s personal lines and coastal accounts represented 24 percent of the Florida market; now that number has dropped to 16 percent.

Looking forward, Citizens expects that its policy count could equal less than 900,000 by year’s end depending on the success of planned take-outs by private insurers in November and December.

As a result of Citizens downsizing, its exposure had dropped more than 40 percent from a high of $500 billion to $300 billion, which means that the potential assessment risk on all Floridian citizens has declined from $11.6 billion in 2011 to $2.3 billion.

“I see nothing but coming but good news coming when it comes to taking the assessment burden off the back of Florida citizens,” said Gilway.

Gilway attributed that decrease to a number of factors including Citizens depopulation programs that have seen private insurers take out hundreds of thousands of policies out of the insurer.

Please enjoy the full article below!

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2014/09/02/339189.htm

The Board of Governors for Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance Corp. approved on Wednesday a 2015 rate package that reflects an overall average 2.9 percent statewide decrease for personal residential policyholders across the state.

Citizens said single family homeowners will see an average drop of 3.2 percent for the coming year under a slate of rate recommendations that must be approved later by the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation. Overall, personal and commercial rates will decrease by 1 percent.

Citizens said sinkhole rates in Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties will remain the same for 2015. Sinkhole policyholders in Hernando County, which continues to have the highest loss ratio in the state, will see a 10 percent increase.

Citizens, Florida’s largest property insurer with over 928,000 policyholders, has raised its rates for four consecutive years.

But following eight hurricane seasons with no major storms, five years of rate adjustments under the glide path and historically low reinsurance costs, Citizens said nearly seven in 10 Citizens personal lines policyholders will see rate reductions in 2015, with 58 percent of customers receiving reductions of more than 5 percent.

Chris Gardner, chairman of Citizens’ Board of Governors, said the 2015 rates reflect Citizens’ best actuarial estimate of its rate needs for the coming year. “Following five years of prudent rate filings under the glide path, actuarial estimates now indicate rate reductions are in order for a significant number of our policyholders,” Gardner said.

Please call L & S Insurance at 1-888-244-7400 for quotes on Home, Auto, Flood, Business & Commercial & Life & Financial Insurance as well. Please enjoy the full article below.

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2014/06/26/332946.htm

Florida’s passage of a homeowners’ claims bill of rights left few satisfied after lawmakers largely codified current law while avoiding controversial issues such as the practice of policyholders assigning their claims payments to contractors.

The bill of rights was a priority of the state’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and was initially drafted by the state’s insurance consumer advocate’s office.

Atwater said the bill is needed given that about 350,000 homeowners file claims each year and his office receives 125,000 calls from policyholders either filing complaints or searching for answers about their claims.

“This much-needed bill of rights will notify Florida homeowners of their rights and responsibilities when filing an insurance claim and give them confidence that they will be treated fairly during a stressful situation involving their home,” stated Atwater.

The 12-point bill of rights is meant to inform homeowners of timelines such as one requiring insurance companies to acknowledge a claim within 14 days of being filed. Additionally, insurers must within 30 days of receiving a proof-of-loss statement, confirm a claim is covered, partially covered or denied. Within 90 days, insurers must either pay the claim in full or in part or deny the claim.

The bill of rights also advises policyholders what they need to do in case they have property damage, including that they should contact their insurer before hiring a contractor.

While Atwater and his allies have been declaring victory, some who participated in crafting the bill walked away disappointed in an outcome that created no new legal rights for homeowners or insurers.

What seemed at first a rather non-controversial piece of legislation turned into a heated debate over a so-called “assignment of benefits” provision.

Under this provision, homeowners can sign over their financial rights to be paid for a claim so that instead the payments are made directly to a contractor making repairs instead of to the homeowner.

The contractor also assumes the policyholder’s legal right to dispute a claim and file suit against an insurer. If the contractor prevails in court, in addition to the insurer having to pay the claim, it must also pay the contractor’s legal bills.

From insurers’ point of view, this has created a cottage industry where trial lawyers and contractors work to maximize the monies they can receive from insurers regardless of the real cost of the claim.

Personal Insurance Federation of Florida Executive Director Michael Carlson said that is a major reason his association supported doing away with the assignment of benefits.

“What we are seeing under assigned benefits is unscrupulous contractors who tell homeowners that in order to get repairs they have to sign a form signing away their rights,” said Carlson. “Then the vendor will inflate the claims costs then tell the insurer you owe us this much or we will sue you.”

Carlson said that in addition to increasing claims costs and unnecessary litigation, the assignment of benefits practice keeps consumers in the dark about their own claims. For example, he said, policyholders have had lawsuits filed on their behalf without their knowledge.

 

Please call L & S Insurance at 1-888-244-7400 for quotes on Home, Auto, Flood, Business & Commercial, & Life & Financial products as well.

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2014/06/23/332627.htm

 

Responding to pleas from highway troopers and the state’s sheriffs, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday he will veto a bill that could increase the speed limit on Florida highways from 70 to 75 mph.

Scott said that he has decided to “stand with law enforcement” who urged him to veto the legislation that narrowly passed the Florida Legislature late last month.

“I want everybody to stay safe, I don’t want anybody to be injured,” Scott said. “I think by doing this we are doing the right thing for our troopers and the right thing for law enforcement. I’ve been to too many law-enforcement funerals.”

The bill (SB 392) would not raise speed limits automatically, but would allow the Department of Transportation to increase them when it saw fit. The department could also raise the speed limit from 65 to 70 mph on rural, four-lane divided highways and up to 65 mph on other roads.

Legislators only approved the bill after a contentious debate where opponents said raising Florida’s speed limits would embolden motorists to drive faster and result in more accidents.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, and one of the sponsors of the bill, contended that the safety concerns were not accurate.

Please call L & S Insurance at 1-888-244-7400 for quotes on Home, Auto, Flood, Business & Commercial, and Life & Financial products as well.

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2014/05/15/329313.htm

the push by Jeff Atwater is in serious jeopardy. That’s because insurers, such as State Farm Florida, are only willing to accept the added protections if they come with other changes that could help keep their costs down.

The bill would create a “homeowner claims bill of rights” that requires insurers to spell out to homeowners what they can expect when they file a claim.

The legislation also would prohibit insurance companies from using credit information to deny a claim or cancel a policy if the policy has been in effect for more than 90 days. This provision came out of a dispute between regulators and one of Florida’s largest insurance companies.

Atwater said that the Legislature has given consumers specific rights over the years, “but consumers don’t have a bookshelf at home with these statutes. They are not conversant in this.”

But some insurers want a separate provision that would place limits on when a homeowner can sign over to a contractor the right to collect payments directly from an insurance company. They contend that this is a looming problem and that some companies hired to fix roofs and repair water damage have inflated the costs. Without the change the fear it is could drive up homeowner insurance rates once again.

Atwater initially backed this provision and said there are places where it is being abused. But the provision has drawn opposition from contractors and earlier this month a Senate panel voted to strip it out of the bill (SB 708).

Please call L & S Insurance at 1-888-244-7400 for quotes on Home, Flood, Auto, Business & Commercial and Life & Financial products as well. Please enjoy the full article below;

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2014/03/31/324820.htm

 

 

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