Blog: Citizens’ delays leave policyholders scrambling for coverage as hurricane season starts

Jun 2, 2011

The following article was posted to the House Keys blog in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on June 2, 2011:

Citizens’ delays leave policyholders scrambling for coverage as hurricane season starts

By Julie Patel

Some policyholders were scrambling for coverage days before the start of hurricane season today.

That’s because state-backed Citizens Property Insurance, Florida’s largest insurer, didn’t provide quotes before their policies expired.

Dave Newell, the industry relationship manager of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, said he heard about the delays from about a dozen agents, mostly those who represent condominium associations. He said he has also heard Citizens is taking longer to issue new policies.

“They are very concerned that it is not only taking so long but we’re fast approaching June 1,” Newell said last week. “Their clients are very anxious and concerned.”

Agents say they submitted information as much as 60 days in advance of a policy expiration dates, as Citizens allows, but were still waiting for quotes by the time the policies expired.

Christine Ashburn, Citizens’ external affairs director, said the insurer is making eligible policies effective on the date the policyholders’ requested so people don’t have a lapse in coverage. So for instance, even if a condo association doesn’t receive its offer of coverage until today, the policy would still take effect when its former policy expired.

She said that Citizens is working to catch up “realizing work is behind.” The insurer is having all employees that had been temporarily assigned to other projects back to processing policies full-time, prioritizing the remaining work, and having some employees work overtime.

“Results of these efforts should be reflected within the next one to two weeks,” Ashburn wrote on Friday.

The delays are partly blamed on a surge in new applicants and policyholders up for renewal in May and June and on multiple agents asking Citizens for quotes for a single building because they’re competing with each other for the business, she added.

“Agents also ask for more quote requests such as asking for various deductible options prior to renewal during this period which creates additional workload and lead to delays,” Ashburn wrote in an email.

Ashburn said the delays are limited to condominium buildings. But occasionally, technical problems can cause similar problems for home or condo owners.

In March, a policyholder in Oakland Park reported she had been without insurance coverage for weeks because she and her agent hadn’t heard back from Citizens after her insurer, Nationwide, canceled her policy.

The day after a Sun Sentinel inquiry about the delay – and two months after the policyholder applied for coverage – Citizens sent her a policy.

Asburn said “the hold-up on this application was an anomaly” caused by the policyholder’s application being flagged incorrectly in Citizens’ computer system.