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Idalia Damage: No New Surcharges on Fla. Policies

State-owned Citizens Property Ins. can levy surcharges on all insurance policies if it has heavy losses, but Idalia’s impact won’t force it do to so.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Claims from policyholders of state-owned Citizens Property Insurance Corp. from Hurricane Idalia will fall short of the $420 million that would trigger assessments for all Citizens customers, the company said this week.

But there’s still a lot of hurricane season left.

Citizens has received about 2,000 claims from victims of Idalia, which hit the Big Bend region on Aug. 30, Craig Sakraida, the company’s vice president of non-litigated claims, told the company’s Claims Committee on Tuesday.

That’s about 10% of the 19,324 Idalia claims reported by all insurers to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation through Sept. 14.

Citizens will likely pay out $128.8 million to its policyholders, according to an estimate from disaster modeling firm Verisk provided by Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier. Of that total, $109 million will be paid out of the $420 million surplus in the company’s personal lines account, Peltier said.

Most Idalia claims have come from Pinellas, Taylor and Pasco counties, Sakraida told Citizens’ Claims Committee.

“We anticipate having this wrapped up relatively quickly with a low claims counts,” he said.

Citizens entered this year’s hurricane season with a dwindling surplus and its fingers crossed. The $1.7 billion in surplus in the personal lines account – the company’s largest account with 1.1 million policies – at the beginning of the 2022 hurricane season was eroded by claims from victims of last September’s Hurricane Ian, which struck the Fort Myers area before heading northeast across the state.

State law requires Citizens to levy surcharges on its own policyholders of up to 15% of their premiums for each of its three accounts – personal lines, coastal and commercial – if those accounts’ surpluses are depleted. Policyholders could face surcharges of 45% if all three accounts are depleted.

If Citizens needs more money after imposing surcharges on its own policyholders, it can then collect emergency assessments from nearly all insurance customers.

The surpluses in the coastal and commercial accounts are large enough that they are supplemented by ample reinsurance that would have to be depleted before surcharges could be levied.

But in the personal lines account, after the $420 million is spent, Citizens would have to levy a $770 million surcharge against its policyholders and $830 million against nearly all insurance customers statewide before it could tap into more than $6 billion in reinsurance purchased from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund and private-market reinsurers.

To raise $770 million, Citizens’ 1.4 million policyholders would face surcharges of $550 each.

The high cost of buying reinsurance to avoid personal lines account surcharges before catastrophe fund coverage kicks in would deplete the company’s budget, Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Montero said in July.

Idalia’s $109 million hit to the personal lines account leaves the surplus at $311 million with more than two months of hurricane season remaining. If Citizens can get through the year without depleting the $311 million, policyholders will be able to breathe easier.

Next year, Citizens is merging its three accounts. That means the surpluses will be combined as well, and more money will be available for personal lines account claims before the company would seek surcharges or emergency assessments.

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