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With Florida about to enter peak hurricane season, a state insurance association representing more than a dozen insurers in Florida is hitting back against a recent report from ratings agency Weiss Ratings that identified 10 Florida-based insurers as “weak.”

The insurer trade group, the Florida Property & Casualty Association (FPCA), is disputing the “weak” assessments by Weiss and defending the marketplace in general, saying it does not believe Weiss is a legitimate ratings agency

“Florida homeowners should beware of a recent press release by Weiss Ratings that contains misleading information about the financial stability of our state’s homeowner’s insurance companies. This is simply not the truth,” the Florida Property & Casualty Association (FPCA) said in a statement.

State insurance officials did not respond to individual ratings assertions by Weiss but did downplay the effect of open Hurricane Irma claims that Weiss cites as a concern.

Weiss Ratings has defended its assessments of the 10 insurers as weak, claiming other rating agencies give some insurers high ratings they don’t deserve.

In the June 14 press release that upset FPCA, Weiss highlighted what it called the 10 strongest and weakest providers of homeowners insurance doing business in Florida.

The ratings agency, which analyzes and rates 2,300 property and casualty insurers in the United States, said it uses annual and quarterly financial statements filed with state insurance commissioners to complete an analysis of hundreds of factors that are synthesized into a series of indexes that are then used to arrive at a company’s letter grade rating.

Based on this criteria, Weiss’s statement identified 10 carriers with more than $2.5 million in annual homeowners premiums in the state to which it gave a grade of D+ or lower, as of Dec. 31, 2017:

Florida Homeowner Insurers Weiss
Safety Rating
Homeowner Premiums
$ Millions
Anchor P&C Insurance Co. D 53.7
Edison Insurance Co. D+ 68.2
Florida Specialty Insurance Co D 75.8
Olympus Insurance Co. D+ 121.5
People’s Trust Insurance Co. D+ 212.2
Prepared Insurance Co. D 51.5
Tower Hill Preferred Insurance Co. D 104.2
Tower Hill Prime Insurance Co. D 220.1
Universal P&C Insurance Co. D 846.1
White Pine Insurance Co. D+ 6.8

Weiss warned consumers to remain vigilant of these 10 insurers with “weaker finances,” which combined have more than $1.7 billion in homeowners premium in Florida.

FPCA, which represents 15 Florida insurers, including Edison Insurance and People’s Trust, disputed the Weiss ratings, saying in its release that Florida home insurers must pass a rigorous catastrophe reinsurance stress test by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), as well as vertical and horizontal reinsurance reviews by what it calls “credible rating agencies.”

FPCA alleges that Weiss Ratings opinions are “not recognized by the insurance industry because they fail to consider the rigorous reinsurance programs purchased by insurance carriers on an annual basis,” FPCA said.

“Our leadership of and members of the FPCA do not believe Weiss is a legitimate ratings agency. To the best of our knowledge, their ratings aren’t recognized by the secondary mortgage market and they don’t speak with the insurance companies they claim to rate. A.M. Best, S&P, Moody’s and Demotech all do,” said FPCA Chairman Roger Desjadon.

Each of the top 10 companies Weiss assigned low ratings to have Financial Stability Ratings (FSR) of ‘A’ or better by Ohio-based financial analysis firm Demotech, except one – White Pine Insurance Co., which is rated B+ by A.M. Best only. In addition to its ‘A’ rating from Demotech, Tower Hill Prime Insurance Co. also carries an A- rating from Best with a negative ratings implication, as of Sept. 2017. Best does not rate the other eight companies.

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/07/24/495836.htm

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“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

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 types of group & business products.

On the official start of the 2018 Hurricane Season, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis reminds Floridians of the importance of financial preparedness before the next storm. CFO Patronis warns that homeowners insurance policies contain limitations and exclusions and it is important to review your policy to understand your coverages.

“Last year, Hurricane Irma alone resulted in more than $8 billion in insured losses. If you haven’t already, now is the time to financially prepare for the 2018 Hurricane Season,” said CFO Jimmy Patronis. “Understanding your insurance coverage is a vital part of the hurricane preparedness process. Check your homeowners insurance policy and understand what is covered and what is excluded so that you have adequate coverage.”

Homeowner’s insurance policies vary from company to company. Here are eight insurance coverages you may consider for hurricane season:

Windstorm Coverage (if not included in your current homeowners policy).
Windstorm coverage may be excluded if you live in a wind pool area (generally within 1,000 – 1,500 feet of a body of water, such as the gulf or the ocean).

Flood Insurance (if not included in your current homeowners policy).
Flood coverage may be included in your current homeowners policy by endorsement, or a separate policy may be issued. This coverage is important to have even if you are not in a designated flood zone.

Food Spoilage.
Food spoilage is not always covered by most policies; however, if the coverage is included, most companies cover food spoilage due to a power outage caused by direct physical damage on the insured premises.

Sinkhole Coverage.
This covers sinkhole losses on any structure, including personal property. Coverage may be restricted to the principal building, as defined in the policy.

Additional Living Expenses/Loss of Use.
This provides for the “additional” expenses of living elsewhere due to a loss to the insured residence by covered damage.

Inflation Guard Endorsement.
This endorsement may be added to most policies and provides for an automatic percentage increase in coverage amounts to help keep your coverage aligned with current construction costs.

Replacement Cost Endorsement.
This pays up to the limits for the replacement of a damaged or destroyed home or property, without deducting depreciation. This is different from Actual Cash Value, which pays for the actual value of damaged items and does not consider depreciation.

Law and Ordinance.
This pays an additional amount to apply towards the cost to rebuild or repair damages due to the enforcement of any ordinance or law regarding construction, repair, or demolition.

Consumers should speak with their insurance agent or company to confirm the coverages on their policy as soon as possible. Once a storm develops, their insurance company may be under binding restrictions, and they may be unable to obtain a separate policy or add these important coverages to their current policy. Consumers should keep in mind that some property insurance companies offer flood coverage as an endorsement to the homeowners’ policy, and typically there is a 30-day waiting period to obtain coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

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 & group benefits as well.

“You can run the models all day,” said panelist Steven Kelner, managing director and head of U.S./Canada Analytics at Guy Carpenter & Company LLC. “But when you go down to Houston and look at neighborhoods, there were huge neighborhoods where the whole neighborhood was deemed not flood exposed. And the whole neighborhood but a house or two was flooded, because the maps weren’t accurate; because the data wasn’t up-to-date.”

With this in mind, the industry will need to rethink its approach to cat modeling as it continues learning from recent natural disasters including hurricanes and wildfires, panelists agreed.

“There’s a lot of complexity in getting a cat model to run accurately,” Kelner said. “For example, I can turn [GPS] mapping software on, and it will tell me how long it will take to get from Trenton to Philadelphia at 5 p.m. But the mapping software doesn’t realize that at 5:45 p.m., there’s always a backup. So we need to still have common sense in our day-to-day.”

Panelist John Langione, chief risk officer at QBE North America, agreed, adding that “models are great, but they’re part of the process.”

The challenge for the insurance industry comes in recognizing the importance of using modeling software for pricing, while not becoming overly reliant on the models themselves and looking instead to historical elements to understand exposure and risk, said panelist Bruce Jones, executive vice president and chief risk officer at The Travelers Companies Inc.

“You have this sort of tug-of-war between actual experience and models and trying to make sure that as you’re thinking about it both from a pricing perspective and from a capital perspective, you do have a total view of what’s going on,” he said

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2018/07/16/495213.htm

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A restoration contractor company owner has been arrested over an alleged assignment of benefits (AOB) fraud scheme that impacted 19 homeowners in eight Florida counties and one Texas county, according to a statement from Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis.

Timothy Matthew Cox, owner of Nationwide Catastrophe Services, Inc. and Restoration Response Services, Inc., is alleged to have stolen nearly $140,000 for home repairs related to damages from tropical weather events that he never provided. As a result of Cox’s alleged activity, the victims’ homes sustained additional damage from significant weather events, including Hurricane Irma, the statement said.

The Florida Bureau of Insurance Fraud, a division of the Florida Department of Financial Services, found that Cox and his team targeted Brevard, Clay, Escambia, Flagler, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia Counties and Tarrant County, Texas.

These areas were impacted by tropical storms and hurricanes, and according to DFS, Cox is alleged to have pressured homeowners to sign an AOB contract to have damages repaired. Cox received $139,444.97 from the 19 victims and their insurance carriers.

After receiving the insurance payments, Cox’s team never started any of the work they were contracted to perform on the 19 homes, according to the statement. The payments made to Nationwide Catastrophe Services, Inc. and Restoration Response Services, Inc. were deposited into bank accounts controlled by Cox, who used the money for personal use, DFS said

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/06/13/491931.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

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

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