July 3, 2022
  • July 3, 2022

Home insurance chaos baffles Florida homeowners

By on May 28, 2022 0

Prohibitive insurance premiums, a wave of litigation and failing businesses are combining to leave many Florida homeowners short and without options, according to consumers and industry critics.

Although state lawmakers sent bills to address some of the issues to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed them into law on Thursday, observers say it will take up to 18 months before the public realizes of the impact of this week’s special session in Tallahassee.

Here are several snapshots of homeowners who have suffered from system failures, whether it’s canceled policies, skyrocketing rates or unresolved claims from business insolvencies.

Last December, Mimi Bright, owner of a five-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Parkland, filed a claim with Avatar Property & Casualty Insurance Co. of Tampa to help cover the costs of the water damage. caused by a slab leak under a marble floor in one of the bathrooms of the house.

But Avatar went into liquidation in March, while its claim for more than $100,000 remains unresolved. After 6 months without being able to use her bathroom, she decided to pay for it herself while fighting for a settlement that will cover her costs.

Bright, who is a product manager at an insurance company and a former city commissioner for Parkland, said it took Avatar 10 days to send a leak detection company and another month to send a leak detection expert. claims to assess the damage, which went beyond the bathroom to a bedroom. and wooden floors.

Experts were also slow to learn that mold was part of the damage equation, Bright says.

Then an unexpected calamity struck: an adjuster who drove to her home left a door open as he walked out to his truck. Instantly his dogs ran away from the house and one of them was hit by a car.

Total cost of the veterinary bill: $23,000.

Aside from the vet’s bill, Avatar gave her a “very low estimate,” so she agreed to a partial settlement of around $20,000 for the water damage.

“They sent me a partial settlement which we disputed because they were giving me $20,000 for the whole thing,” Bright said. A few years ago the bathroom was remodeled for $30,000.

But the following month, Avatar was in receivership.

“When I went to drop off the [settlement] check it bounced,” she said

His claim is now in the hands of the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, the state agency that handles claims from customers of failing insurance companies. An agent there told Bright there were 18 claims to deal with before her.

“Now I’m out of money,” Bright said.

So she took out a $40,000 loan to cover water damage repairs and medical bills for the dog, whose condition improved after the accident.

The latter is about the only positive so far.

“I don’t have anything” about the claims process, Bright said. “If I didn’t take a loan, it could take another 6 months. The question is how long do I want to live without my bedrooms and bathroom? It’s already been six or seven months.

In the meantime, she got a new citizens’ police. but his annual bonus went from $4,540 with Avatar to $7,453.

“It’s just a nightmare,” she said. “I finally took out a loan for my mental health and I’m doing it myself.”

(Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Steve Haas, a retiree who has lived in the same West Boca Raton home for 30 years and been insured by the same company for 20 years, says he lost his policy with Federal National Insurance, also known as of FedNat, for no particular reason concerning it. .

“There has been no claim activity,” he said. “I guess my number is out. In short, they wrote a letter saying that due to economic circumstances and in order to stay in business, “see you soon, goodbye”.

Haas said his home suffered damage from Hurricane Wilma in 2005. But he didn’t file a claim because the cost of rebuilding his sunroom was less than the police deductible.

“I’m not a complaints hog,” he said. “I always pay in full, from the start of the policy.”

FedNat’s farewell came in a letter to Haas and more than 68,000 other policyholders. FedNat and its affiliates said those customers had until 12:01 a.m. June 29 to find another insurer. Industry analysts believe it would likely be citizens.

“I’m definitely not the only pea in the pod,” Haas said.

“They said they had a bad financial situation and because of that they cut them [the policyholders] loose,” added Haas. “There was no other specific reason.”

Nest Tuesday. Haas said an inspector was to visit his home, built in 1980, to start the process of finding a new policy.

“Once the inspection is complete, I will send them a report and start shopping,” he said. “There has not yet been a discussion on tariffs. Talking to people at the insurance agency and reading the papers, God only knows what [premium] the number is going to be. Fingers crossed.”

But he added: ‘I anticipate the premium to be much higher than what was,’ which was $2,930 after discounts.

“I’m not broke,” Haas said. “But when you’re retired and living off your investments and Social Security, it’s not fun when an expense is increased by anything – a thousand dollars or two thousand dollars a year.”

Lou Medina, 80, has lived in his single-family home in Pembroke Pines since 1981.

For the past three consecutive years, his premiums have increased by 30% each year. Previously, it was $2,500 a year, he said. Now it’s $4,434.

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Over the years, he said he’s filed claims to replace a roof after a hurricane and to repair water damage to his home from an overflowing washing machine.

He said he had been insured by State Farm for decades until the company dropped him six years ago.

Since then it has been covered by two other private companies and Citizens, who have dropped it twice. Her insurer is now VYRD, a St. Petersburg company that serves Florida. The premium is now $6,656 from $5,217 the year before, he said.

Prices, he argues, are anything but rational.

“You can’t stay one step ahead,” Medina said.

Medina ditched a full replacement value policy, which covers the cost of rebuilding a home with an all-new version, in favor of a cash value option that gives the homeowner the option to cover the actual cost of damage at current values ​​after depreciation.

“Insurance has continued to grow 25% or 30% every year and it’s crazy,” he said. “The insurance will be more than the house is worth.”