Cost to insure homes takes off

Jul 11, 2011

The following article was published in the Fort Myers News-Press on July 11, 2011:

Cost to insure homes takes off

Pedro Ocasio said his insurance agent warned him to expect a small increase in his homeowners insurance bill this year.

“The small increase was from $1,343 to $2,495,” said Ocasio, 74, of Lehigh Acres. “That’s not a small increase in any way, but that was the best price they could find.”

Rather than pay the rates, Ocasio took the risk on his own and opted to go uninsured, since he owns his home outright.

Ocasio was in the market for new insurance because his previous company did not renew his coverage, but most homeowners, including those renewing policies, will be paying more this year.

Every one of the 10 companies that write the most property insurance policies in Lee and Collier counties has raised its rates since 2010, ranging from 10 percent to 18.8 percent, on average, statewide.

Those rates don’t compare to the almost 86 percent increase quoted Ocasio. Other factors can make for a larger rate increase, including age of the home and increasing replacement costs. Rate increases are calculated as statewide averages.

“Somebody should be held accountable for this,” Ocasio said. “I know the companies have had losses, or didn’t get all the profits they wanted, but the average person has had more losses in this economy.”

Ocasio could opt to go without insurance instead of pay the higher rates since his home is paid for. People who have a mortgage on their home don’t have that option; banks require mortgaged homes to be insured.

Ocasio is not alone in being frustrated, said Tim Shaw of the Tim Shaw Insurance Group, an independent agency in Fort Myers.

“Everybody is upset and everybody is shopping for a better rate,” Shaw said. “But rates are increasing almost across the board and I expect them to continue to increase.”

Cape Coral resident Rick Brandt, 63, pays property insurance for his own home and a couple of rental properties each year.

“It’s getting worse and worse,” Brandt said. “It has totally ballooned out of control.”

He said his home’s premiums are up 30 to 40 percent in the past two years.

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