Citizens Property Insurance cutting coverage for awnings, screened-in pool enclosures

Nov 7, 2011

The following article was posted to on November 4, 2011:

Citizens cutting coverage for awnings, screened-in pool enclosures

By Julie Patel

Starting next year, Citizens Property Insurance will drop coverage on almost everything but the main building on a property.

That means no more coverage for awnings, gazebos, tiki huts and most carports and screened-in pool enclosures.

There will be some exceptions. For instance, patios attached to the main building with the same roof material likely would be covered, according to an email Citizens sent to agents Thursday.

Citizens said the change will be made to new and existing multi-peril policies, which cover fires, theft, hurricanes and other risks, when they’re up for renewal starting Jan. 1 and to new and existing windstorm-only policies when they’re up for renewal starting Feb. 1.

Some private insurers dropped, scaled back or charged more for coverage for secondary structures after Hurricane Wilma. Scores of screened-in pool enclosures were blown over in the storm.

Citizens’ announcement about the change triggered questions from policyholders and agents. For instance, it’s unclear if Citizens will cover some other structures, such as fences and cottages or detached garages with an apartment on the second floor.

“Will people have to get a separate dwelling-fire policy to cover those?” asked Dulce Suarez-Resnick, an insurance agent in Miramar.

She said Citizens policyholders should shop around if they want the coverage. If they can’t find another insurer, they can try to beef up their rainy-day funds.

“Be your family’s CFO and put into play some of your own risk management. Put away, if you can, $50 a month for covering your deductible and covering certain things not covered,” she said. “In today’s economy, I don’t know how many people can actually do that.”

Many people who didn’t have coverage for their pool enclosures damaged by Hurricane Wilma never replaced them, she added.

If policyholders decide to shop around, they should do it months before their policy expires, said Rick Bogani, with Bogani Connect Insurance agency in Royal Palm Beach. That increases the likelihood that private insurers will still be selling policies in their area, and it will allow some time to get inspections done to qualify for discounts.

Citizens spokeswoman Christine Ashburn said state law allows Citizens to provide coverage that’s more restrictive, and Citizens planned for years to make the change but had to wait until after its rate freeze was lifted in 2010. She said regulators recently approved the change.

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