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Insurers, reinsurers and ILS investors could face significant losses from Hurricane Michael, a major Category 4 storm that began its assault on the Florida Panhandle Wednesday, according to a briefing from A.M. Best.

Best said although Florida’s insurance market-share leaders possess strong levels of risk-adjusted capitalization that should provide a buffer against Hurricane Michael losses, there will still be an impact for insurers writing in the state, according to a new A.M. Best briefing.

Furthermore, while nearly all A.M. Best-rated Florida property companies have substantial property catastrophe premium, some have strategically limited their exposures in the panhandle, and therefore are not significantly exposed to this hurricane.

“However, the question of how the state’s relatively new, Florida-specific insurers might withstand the impact of substantial insurable losses caused by Hurricane Michael remains,” Best noted. “In addition, depending on the storm’s intensity after making landfall, the potential for insurable losses could put some pressure on reinsurers. The actual impact of the hurricane will depend on a number of yet undetermined factors, but A.M. Best believes that most of the affected rated carriers have sufficient capital and appropriate reinsurance programs to withstand this event effectively.”

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Please call Lee from Acentria Insurance at 954-270-7966 for free quotes on Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Business & Commercial & Life, Health & all group products.

“I think the number one thing the insurance industry can do is link AOB (assignment of benefits) to the impact that it’s having on the individual consumer and the huge impact it’s having on the premiums that the consumer’s paying,” Barry Gilway, president, CEO and executive director of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. told attendees in a recent Insurance Journal webinar on Florida AOB abuse

Education, education, education, Gilway said, will be critical to slowing the Florida AOB epidemic that is leading to higher insurance rates, reduced coverage and a potential insurance market crisis in the state.

Gilway was one of a panel of four experts participating in the “Florida AOB Crisis: Where Does the Industry Go from Here?” webinar conducted by Insurance Journal on June 26.

Logan McFaddin, regional representative for the Property Casualty Insurers Association (PCI), Paul Huszar, CEO of remediation contracting company VetCor, and Patrick Wraight, director of the Insurance Journal Academy of Insurance, joined Gilway in discussing the AOB situation in Florida and ways to rein in what they all agreed is runaway abuse.

The AOB problem in Florida stems from unlicensed water remediation and roofing contractors who have homeowners sign over their insurance policy rights in exchange for needed repairs to their homes. The contractors, typically working with an attorney, file inflated or fake claims, and then pursue lawsuits against insurers when those claims are disputed or denied. Because of Florida’s one-way attorney fee statute, insurers are left footing the bill for the inflated claims and the attorney fees if the insurer is found to have underpaid the claim by any amount.

Carriers across the state have seen an increase in litigation because of these inflated claims. According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, there were 405 AOB lawsuits across all 67 Florida counties in 2006, and by 2016 that number had risen to 28,200.

But Citizens, the state-run insurer of last resort, has borne the brunt of the abuse. It reported in its 2019 rate hearing in June that it would spend $70 million this year defending AOB-related litigation – equal to 17 percent of its total premium.

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/07/19/495520.htm

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Like thousands of other Floridians, I recently received my homeowner’s insurance renewal statement only to learn that my premium was increasing by a double-digit percentage – nearly $600 annually. But like most homeowners who have a mortgage and who pay insurance and property taxes through an escrow account, I won’t have to pay anything out-of-pocket yet. It will be a year from now when the pain will come.

I will receive a new escrow calculation showing that my monthly mortgage payment will increase – not only to make up for the shortfall from the previous year’s premium increase, but also to pay the increased premium for the following renewal year – a total of $1,200 for the year, or $100 extra per month.

And if rates continue to increase as they did this year, I and virtually every other Florida homeowner will continue to see our mortgage payments increase this way year after year after year.

Seniors on a fixed income, working families struggling to make ends meet, people saving for college or retirement, and the rest of us who would simply rather keep more of our earnings will suffer. It will feel no different than a huge tax increase, but at least taxes pay for useful things like schools, roads, police, and firefighters. The proceeds from this increase will be used to pay fraudsters.

Real estate values will also take a hit because the more we spend on insurance, the fewer dollars we can apply to the actual mortgage payment. If you want to sell your house, there will be fewer people who can afford it. Lower demand means lower prices. We have only recently experienced in the last decade how a soft real estate market drags down the overall economy.

There is only one entity that can act to reverse course on these rate increases and protect our real estate-driven economy: the Florida State Legislature. There are two reforms legislators can enact that will provide relief from relentless insurance premium rate hikes: 1) reduce systematic fraud by preventing abusive and needless assignments of benefits litigation, and 2) lower the cost of reinsurance by reforming the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, a move that would decrease rates by 8 to 10 percent.

The time to act is now. Even if the proposed reforms are passed during the next legislative session in 2019, homeowners will have to wait until 2020 or beyond to feel relief through mortgage payments that go down instead of up.

That’s a long way off – way past the November elections. But candidates we elect in November will be the ones who must act.

If we want lower rates in the future we need to commit to do two things today: 1) get candidates to state on the record that they will fight for both reforms, and 2) have memories like elephants if they don’t. There are plenty of special interest groups who will pressure them to resist. Go to http://www.floridainsurancereform.org/petition to learn more about these two specific reforms and sign a petition demanding action. Elected officials must fear accountability from Florida voters more than the pressure of special interest groups. We need at least a quarter million signatures to show them that we expect and deserve action

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/06/07/491458.htm

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Guess what? He was a Public adjustor?? No way?? Kidding!!!

A Florida man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in an arson insurance fraud scheme that spanned multiple Florida counties and was ordered to pay $1.9 million towards restitution to the more than 14 carriers affected, according to a statement from the Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s office.

Jorge Fausto Espinosa Sr., owner of the public adjuster company Nationwide Adjusters LLC, pled guilty last month to racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, organized scheme to defraud, and more than 28 counts of arson as well as multiple counts of insurance fraud and grand theft. He was sentenced by Judge Mark Blumstein t

 

o 20 years in state prison in addition to paying $1.9 million towards restitution.

Fausto Espinosa Sr. was one of many defendants originally charged in a series of collaborative investigations by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis’ Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, and the Miami-Dade Police Department called Operation Flames and Flood I and Operation Flames and Flood II.

The investigations found that Espinosa intentionally set multiple homes on fire as well as caused water damage to other homes with the sole purpose of filing false and fraudulent insurance claims. The homeowners were recruited by Espinosa as part of his “Arson for Hire Scheme” involving homes in Miami-Dade, Lee and Collier County.

More than 14 insurance carriers, including Citizens, Tower Hill and United Property and Casualty, were impacted by the 50-plus false claims that cost insurers and policyholders more than $14 million in losses.

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/06/05/491223.htm

 

 

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The 2018 hurricane season is officially underway, even as the dust continues to settle on the 2017 hurricane season — one of the costliest hurricane years on record — that brought devastation to Florida from Hurricane Irma.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast has already received a stark reminder to be prepared from a Memorial Day storm — Tropical Storm Alberto. The cost was at 50 Million per estimates so far!

Irma first hit the Florida Keys as a category 4 storm on Sunday, Sept. 10, with 130-mile per hour winds. It then worked its way north passing over the east and west coasts. Loss estimates from Hurricane Irma ranged between $25 billion to $65 billion by catastrophe modelers.

According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, 90 percent of the 770,658 reported residential property claims had been closed as of April 6, 2018. Total estimated insured losses as of April 12 had reached $8.6 billion. The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund is expected to pay out $2 billion in claims associated with Irma.

Citizens, the state-run insurer of last resort, said in March it had reopened about 37 percent of Hurricane Irma claims as part of ongoing efforts to assist policyholders affected by the storm. As of March 28, more than 24,500 of 66,400 Irma claims, about 37 percent, were reopened for supplemental payment and to allow policyholders or their representatives to provide additional information.

Overall, Citizens has closed nearly 90 percent of its Hurricane Irma-related claims. Open claims include extensively damaged properties, disputes and those waiting for a contractor to provide a repair estimate.

The National Hurricane Center updated the death toll from Irma in April to 44 fatalities directly caused by strong winds and heavy rains, plus 85 fatalities indirectly linked to the storm.

Still, Irma could have been worse, a fact the Florida insurance industry is aware and mindful of as it heads into the 2018 season

Mother Nature wasted no time starting off the 2018 hurricane season, kicking the Atlantic — and more specifically the Gulf Coast — into high gear several days ahead of the official June 1 start date.

Tropical Storm Alberto hit the Florida Panhandle on May 28, bringing winds, rains, and even the possibility of tornadoes. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said winds from the tropical storm reached up to 65 miles per hour.

There is undoubtedly more to come as the season progresses. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) released its forecast for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season in May, estimating a total of 10 to 16 named storms, of which five to nine could become hurricanes and one to four expected to become major hurricanes with winds of 111 miles per hour or more. It noted a 75 percent chance that this year will be a near or above normal hurricane season.

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/06/01/490890.htm

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In an open letter to Citizens President, CEO an Executive Director Barry Gilway, Patronis said the state-backed insurer should be subject to the same rules as state agencies and organizations when it comes requiring lobbyists be registered, but as of now that isn’t the case.

“Currently, lobbyists and private insurers are not statutorily required to disclose their efforts on behalf of clients and private interest they represent before Citizens Property Insurance Corporation,” Patronis wrote.

Citizens Legislative Affairs staff currently do register as lobbyists. Patronis’ letter says it is targeted towards those who represent third parties and private interests, such as businesses, and lobby Citizens.

Patronis wrote transparency is “one of the best ways we can ensure accountability,” and that it should be “crystal clear who is interested in influencing Citizens policy changes or securing contracts with [Citizens].”

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/05/04/488273.htm

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Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has approved a slate of policy language changes designed to protect consumers while addressing rising costs of nonweather water loss claims and related litigation that continue to drive premiums higher, according to a statement from the state-run insurer of last resort.

The policy changes will also address issues that have arisen since the Citizens Managed Repair Program was enacted last year and a subsequent rise in litigation the company says has occurred as a result.

The proposed policy changes, approved by unanimous vote at the Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday, would boost incentives for policyholders to participate in Citizens Managed Repair Program while better ensuring that customers who choose not to participate have adequate funds to make permanent repairs following a nonweather related water loss.

The new policy language would limit payment on nonweather related water losses – a broken pipe, a leaking water heater – to $10,000, including $3,000 for emergency water mitigation services. Additional water mitigation exceeding the $3,000 limit would be completed by Citizens managed repair contractors at no cost to the policyholder. The changes would take effect Aug. 1, 2018, if approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/04/12/486137.htm