Florida homeowner’s insurance market in free fall as costs climb and benefits sink

ORLANDO, Fla. — Skyrocketing premiums, companies going belly-up and people across the area caught in the middle are signs of the state’s homeowner’s insurance market entering what some have called a free fall.

For the past year, Florida’s housing market had been going in only one direction – up.

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But home prices aren’t the only thing increasing across the state.

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“We just received a notice that it was increasing by about $200,” said homeowner Chuck O’Neal about his insurance premium.

O’Neal, like so many other Floridians, is facing an insurance premium increase of 25% – and he’s one of the lucky ones.

Some residents are getting letters including a notice of non-renewal, while others are watching their insurance carriers go out of business.

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In February, Orlando-based St. John’s, the eighth-largest homeowner’s insurance carrier in the state, was declared insolvent.

Days later, Tampa-based Avatar lost its financial rating and is now headed in the same direction.

Meanwhile, Citizens Property Insurance, the state-backed “insurer of last resort,” has been forced to take on thousands more polices, seeing its numbers jump by about 5,000 new policies a week.

Nancy Dominguez is the managing director of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. She notes not only are policies becoming more expensive, but many companies are also trimming back or capping benefits.

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“Most policyholders won’t find out about it until they have a claim,” Dominguez said.

So, what is the state doing about this? Not much.

A Senate plan to reduce roof claims and limit costly litigation died, leaving homeowners across the state facing rising costs, lower benefits and the hopes that their carrier stays in business.

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