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Citizens Rate Recommendation: Charge New Owners Full Price

The Fla.-owned property insurer’s board approved an average 7.2% rate increase – but it also wants to charge new policyholders a full actuarial rate. It’s unclear if Fla. officials will approve Citizens’ proposal, but any new-policyholder increase could affect some property sales.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Citizens Property Insurance Corporation’s Board of Governors approved a pair of rate recommendations on Tuesday intended to make Citizens rates more competitive with private insurance company policies. In doing so, Citizens hopes to slow the flow of policyholders returning to the Florida-operated “insurer of last resort.”

For current homeowners, the board voted 7-2 to approve rate increases for 2021 at an average 7.2% for all policyholders – single-family homes, condominiums, mobile homes, dwellings and renters. If approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), the rates would go into effect for policies renewed after Aug. 1, 2021, though it's unclear if OIR will approve the proposal.

The increase would vary by policy. Homeowner policies would increase by an average 6.1%, while condo owners would see an average 9.4% increase. Renters rates would increase 4% on average.

Changes to new policyholder policies

The board then voted 7-2 to recommend that new policyholders pay actuarially sound rates instead of benefiting from the same capped premiums that existing Citizens policyholders receive.

If approved by OIR – and approval isn’t a sure thing – the change would increase rates for new business by an average of 21%. That new business could include current homeowners who wish to return to Citizens Insurance after working with a private insurer, as well as homebuyers applying for coverage for the first time.

In a related 6-3 vote, the board urged OIR to maintain caps for new business in Monroe County at 10% over the rate charged to renewing policyholders.

A balance between costs and coverage

Citizens faces unique challenges. As a state-owned insurer, it wants to keep policies as low as possible to limit taxpayer risk, and Tuesday’s vote comes after its policy count rose from 443,000 to 552,000 over the past year, a 19.7% increase. Higher than expected losses from Hurricanes Irma and Michael coupled with stubbornly high litigation and reinsurance costs have prompted many private insurers to raise rates, limit coverage and exit particular markets.

“The objective here is to create a healthy, private insurance market in Florida that better represents what we are supposed to be, Florida’s insurer of last resort,” says Carlos Beruff, Board of Governors Chairman.

In December, Citizens Board of Governors deferred action on a slate of 2021 rate recommendations that called for an average 3.7% increase in personal lines coverage, including a 2.2% increase in homeowners coverage. The board directed Citizens actuarial staff to work with OIR to address a growing disparity between Citizens rates and those charged by private insurance companies in many areas of the state.

Citizens is required by law to recommend actuarially sound rates, while complying with a legislative glide path that caps individual rate increases at 10%, excluding coverage changes and surcharges. Meanwhile, private insurers are receiving rate increases far in excess of the 10% cap, widening the premium gap between private insurer and Citizens policies.

Source: News Service of Florida