‘I panicked’: Florida homeowners stunned by rising insurance costs

SORRENTO, Fla. — The next bill from your homeowner’s insurance company could trigger sticker shock. Premium costs are soaring by hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

Action 9 consumer investigator Todd Ulrich reports the state legislature is considering big reforms to ease premium pain, but that could also mean less coverage for homeowners.

In just a year, the cost to insure Mike Rohrbacher’s single-family home in Sorrento nearly doubled.

“The day you opened the email, what was your reaction?” Ulrich asked.

“I panicked. I was just in shock,” Rohrbacher replied.

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Last year, FedNat Insurance charged him $3,500. Then came this year’s bill. The same policy cost more than $6,300.

“Never did I think my rate was going to double for the risk of my home being 14 years old,” Rohrbacher said.

Insurance experts say many providers are increasing premiums for older roofs and for homes built more than 10 years ago.

“And the insurance is going up $700, I mean that’s gouging,” Nella Garcia said.

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Garcia and her husband were surprised to see their premium go up 60% to insure their Ormond Beach house.

Her insurance provider blamed an older roof for the price hike.

“So what, punish us? Where are their hearts?” Nella asked.

Florida’s insurance industry blames skyrocketing rates on recent hurricane roof claims and runaway billing by restoration companies that hire attorneys to sue for roof and water leak repair coverage.

There is proposed legislation in Florida that supporters claim can put the brakes on premium price hikes, but it could also mean less coverage for consumers.

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The state  Senate reform would mean older roofs would no longer have 100% replacement coverage, homeowners would only have two years to file claims after a hurricane and there would be a limit on lawsuits.

“You don’t think that proposal is fair?” Ulrich asked.

“Oh absolutely, it’s not fair,” Tasha Carter replied.

Carter is Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate, and she warns that some reforms could limit coverage at the homeowner’s expense.

Carter is most concerned about the efforts to eliminate full-replacement coverage for storm-damaged roofs.

“If this proposal passes, the insurance company would be allowed to only pay that homeowner a percent of what it would cost to replace their roofs,” Carter said.

Instead, she strongly supports crackdowns on contractors that run up repair bills and then sue for payment.

The reforms also face strong opposition from trial attorneys, who say it would hurt a homeowner’s chance to sue when a claim is denied.

Consumers can try to shop for cheaper premiums. Other options include adding hurricane mitigation or raising their deductibles, but homeowners are urged to make sure they get the coverage they need.

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.