Miami Herald: Citizens Property Insurance isn’t the only insurance option

Sep 21, 2009

 This article was published by the Miami Herald on September 21, 2009

Homeowners shopping for insurance in South Florida have a few options, so they don’t have to buy coverage from Citizens Property Insurance, the expensive state-run insurer.

Here are a few tips on how to find a private carrier and possibly reduce your homeowners insurance bill. They provided by Dulce Suarez-Resnick, an agent with Brown & Brown Insurance’s HBA Division in West Miami-Dade County.

Q. What alternatives do homeowners have if they don’t want to be insured by Citizens?

A. If a home is fully mitigated and has been updated in the last 20 years, there are at least 10 carriers, including Frontline Homeowners Insurance and Edison Insurance, willing to write a homeowners policy that includes windstorm. These companies would be interested in [homes] in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Q. Are any of these companies writing policies east of I-95?

A. Yes, for instance, Frontline does write homeowners policies in the wind-pool area. The roof must have been updated since 1996. And window protection — shutters — must meet the 2001 Florida building code or the 1996 Miami Dade County code.

 Q. Is there a difference between the homeowners policy you get from Citizens and one from a private carrier? Citizens offers you a basic homeowners insurance policy. It’s like having a cheese pizza versus a pizza with many different toppings.

A. With most private carriers, you can choose additional coverages that might not be available under a Citizens policy.

Q. What other kinds of coverage are available?

A. If you want to increase your personal property coverage, the maximum you can get from Citizens is 50 percent of the insured value of the policy. Other companies would sell up to 70 percent. If you want to add a jewelry or fine art rider, such coverages aren’t available through Citizens.

Q. Is there anything homeowners can do to reduce insurance costs because rates most likely will be moving higher next year?

A. Homeowners should ask: Am I getting all the discounts that I’m entitled to?

If you have a home alarm, did you submit the alarm certificate to your insurer so you can get a discount?

If your home has been updated, have you had a four-point inspection to show the electrical, AC system, plumbing and roof have been upgraded? Some people might say they’ve only done minor upgrades. But if you have a new roof, that might get you a wind mitigation credit that you didn’t have before.