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The Fla.-owned insurer wrote to customers who haven’t made payments due to COVID-19 that they must pay all money owed by Aug. 15 or face cancellation.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s state-run insurer of last resort says it’s time to pay up.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. customers who have been unable to make their homeowner insurance payments because of a COVID-19-related hardship will have to come up with a way to fulfill their obligations or face cancellation after Aug. 15, the company said in letters sent to agents and customers this month.

As of July 17, 13,063 Citizens customers – about 7.5% of the company’s 481,000 policies – were past due, according to the company. They include 8,107 whose policies were renewed with no down payment since March, leaving customers owing hundreds if not thousands of past-due dollars.

Some agents worry that continued high rates of unemployment will prevent many of those homeowners from resuming making payments next month, causing them to lose their insurance just as the worst part of the hurricane season approaches.

Homeowners with mortgages would then face having their lender force-place an insurance policy, a more costly option which would increase the debt and possibly lead to foreclosure. Homeowners without mortgages would bear the cost of their own repairs – if they could afford it.

Making matters worse, the resumption of cancellations and nonrenewals comes amid skyrocketing renewal rates – a result of heightened hurricane activity, claims fraud and rising costs for insurance that insurers must buy.

“Payments have been deferred and people are still not working. How are they going to pay?” asks Dulce Suarez-Resnick, vice president of NCF Insurance Associates in Miami. “We all thought this pandemic was going to last two or three months. But it’s been much longer and we don’t know when it’s going to end.”

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