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Citizens Drops Rate-Hike Request a Bit

Fla.’s state-operated “insurer of last resort” lowered its earlier request to an average 11.5% increase, with commercial complexes, including condos, rising 10.2%.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The state’s Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has revised proposed rate increases, with many homeowners likely to see double-digit hikes starting late this year.

Citizens last week sent a proposal to the state Office of Insurance Regulation that would lead to an average 11.5% increase for homeowners with the most-common type of policies, known as “multi-peril” policies, according to information slated to be presented to the Citizens Board of Governors on Sept. 27.

When other types of personal-lines residential policies are factored in, such as wind-only and mobile-home policies, the average increase would be 12.3%. Various types of commercial policies, including condominium association policies, are expected to see an average increase of 10.2%.

Citizens made revisions after the Office of Insurance Regulation last month took issue with parts of an earlier rate proposal and ordered some reductions. The revisions were aimed at addressing regulators’ objections, though Citizens had not received a final sign-off as of Friday morning, Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier said.

“We’ve responded to OIR’s (the Office of Insurance Regulation’s) concerns and think the rates we’re presenting to our board reflect those requested changes,” Peltier said.

The personal-lines rate increases would take effect Dec. 16, while the commercial increases would take effect Nov. 20, according to an executive summary of the information expected to go before the Citizens board. Policyholders would see them at the time of renewal.

The likely increases come amid massive growth at Citizens, which was created as an insurer of last resort but had ballooned to 1.387 million policies as of last week. Homeowners have poured into Citizens during the past three years as private insurers have dropped customers and raised rates because of financial problems.

State leaders have long sought to push policies into the private market, in part because of financial risks if Florida gets hit with a major hurricane or multiple hurricanes. Citizens, however, argues that it often charges far-lower rates than private insurers – effectively giving an incentive for homeowners to continue buying coverage from Citizens.

Citizens this year asked the Office of Insurance Regulation for an average 13.1% rate increase for personal-lines policies, including proposing 12% increases for all homes that are primary residences and have multi-peril policies. The 12% increase would have been the maximum allowed this year for those policies under a state law that limits how much Citizens can raise premiums.

But in an Aug. 18 order, regulators objected to increasing rates by 12% on all of those policies, saying the Citizens proposal emphasized “overall actuarial soundness, instead of individual actuarial soundness.”

The order, signed by Insurance Commissioner Michael Yaworsky, cited questions about whether the proposed increases might not be justified in some areas of the state, saying that the Office of Insurance Regulation “finds that due to the inadequate support as it relates to Citizens being non-competitive (with private insurers) … rates should be subject to a modified policyholder capping methodology.”

Under such a methodology, increases could range up to 12% for multi-peril policies on primary residences – with some policyholders possibly not seeing increases, according to the order. Under a law that passed last year, rates could increase up to 50% for homes that are not primary residences.

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