LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — For the last two decades Steve and Alice Smith have enjoyed their quiet retiree life in “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown”, better known as The Villages.
“It’s nice here, everyone gets to know each other, we’ve made a lot of good friends,” says Alice.
But recently their tranquil life has been turned upside down all because of where they live, or rather the age of the place they live; their home just turned 20.
“We received our renewal policy maybe a month or more ago, and since then, we were shocked when we got the bill,” says Alice holding up her homeowner’s insurance renewal notice to show a price increase of 69%. “The insurance companies, they can kind of threaten Florida that they won’t offer policies, so what can we do?”
Steve and Alice are like more than 500 homeowners in The Villages and millions more statewide, now facing one of two options: higher prices, or coverage sent off to the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance.
For its part Citizens recently crested one million polices in its portfolio for the first time since 2013. Additionally, starting September first, many homeowners using Citizens will see their rates climb too.
“We are seeing more volatility in the homeowner’s insurance market today than we have seen in the last two years,” says Mark Friedlander of the Insurance Information Institute, noting that Florida resident already pay the highest average property insurance premium in the nation, at almost three-times the national average. “It is getting more expensive; it is getting more difficult to find coverage.”
In the last year at least 16 insurance companies have either been forced to drop policies, been declared insolvent, or stopped accepting new business. This all as lawmakers in 2021 passed a reform to try and stabilize the market, and then passed another set of reforms in May of this year during a special session as the crisis continued.
Meanwhile for residents like the Smiths, there are few options.
“We didn’t have a 69% increase in my retirement or social security, so what are you going to do?” asks Steve. “You got to have insurance, if the house burns down and you don’t have insurance, you’ve lost everything.”