Miami Herald: Citizens rate hike not as harsh as expected

Nov 23, 2009

The Miami Herald published this article on November 21, 2009

Citizens’ windstorm rates are heading up for most people.

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

The average cost of Citizens Property Insurance coverage for windstorm damage will increase next year but not as much as first expected.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty approved an average 5.9 percent hike for single-family homeowners and 9.3 percent jump for businesses, according to an order issued Friday.

The new rates, which take effect Feb. 1., ended a three-year rate freeze.

But the actual rates mean significant hikes for some and considerable breaks for others depending on location. For example, wind-only policies for homeowners in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties will all decrease while most policies in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties will jump more than 11 percent.

The wind-only policies, covering only high-risk coastal areas where private insurers don’t offer plans, account for a third of Citizens’ nearly one million policies.

The state-run insurer initially requested a greater average increase: 7.5 percent for homeowners and 9.9 percent for businesses. But analysts for the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation challenged how Citizens determined its rates and adjusted the calculations. The main change is the incorporation of a 15 percent catastrophe surcharge into the policy premium, state insurers said.

Citizens spokesman John Kuczwanski said the company, which cannot appeal the order, will use the rate hike to help build its reserves for a major hurricane. “We are confident we will get to where we need to be,” he said.

Earlier this year, state regulators approved an average 5.4 percent increase for Citizens’ homeowners policies that cover perils beyond windstorms. The Legislature authorized the company to raise rates — with the approval of McCarty’s office — in 2010 when it lifted the freeze but capped the average statewide increase at 10 percent, not including reinsurance costs.

A citizen group from Monroe County asked for a break on its rates at a November public hearing, citing the county’s above-average construction standards and problems with hurricane modeling, but state regulators deferred action on the issue until next year’s rate negotiations.

Staff writer Jeff Harrington contributed to this report. John Frank can be reached at