Florida Approves Rate Hikes for ‘High Risk’ Coastal Properties

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty has approved rates hikes for about 330,000 of Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s so-called high-risk coastal property accounts. The statewide average increases include a hike of 5.2 percent for more than 250,000 coastal homeowners, 11 percent for about 15,000 mobile homes and 9.4 percent for condo associations.

The final rates are similar to the rates requested by the state-backed Citizens in its efforts to restore actuarial soundness to its pricing after a legislatively-imposed rate freeze of several years, although McCarty’s Office of Insurance Regulation did make slight adjustments.

The following are the approved statewide average high-risk account rate increases included: Homeowners: 5.2 percent; Dwelling Fire: 4.0 percent; Mobile Homeowners: 11.0 percent; Commercial Property – Nonresidential: 9.3 percent; Commercial Property Residential – Excluding Condo Associations: 9.4 percent and Commercial Property Residential – Condo Associations: 9.4 percent.

Citizens, which has about 1.1 million policies in force, had requested more (7.5 percent, 11.8 percent and 5.9 percent) for homeowners, mobile homes and dwelling fire risks respectively.

In October, state regulators approved an average 5.4 percent rate hike in 2010 for homeowners but that did not include HRAs. Also, rates for non-HRA dwelling fire policies will go up 8.8 percent and for mobile homes, 1.7 percent. Rates for condominiums will go up 10.2 percent.

“Recent legislation requires this office to establish the rates for Citizens’ policyholders, and our actuaries did that in their usual deliberative and disciplined manner,” said McCarty. “The intent of the legislation is to annually adjust Citizens’ rates so they become actuarially sound.”

Private insurers and businesses had urged that Citizens raise rates above 10 percent, which they argued was permitted udner the law.

But McCarty said that the Florida Legislature effectively capped Citizens’ annual rate increases at 10 percent, except that the mobile home line of business shows a higher increase because the law allows companies to pass on a cash build-up factor paid to the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to policyholders, which is not subject to the 10 percent limit.

State officials have been concerned about hiking Citizens’ prices too much, too soon.

“We want them to be able to meet their obligations and to pay claims,” Deputy Insurance Commissioner Belinda Miller told the Associated Press. “But what we don’t want them to do is increase rates dramatically all in one year. We want them to get there over time.”

McCarty’s rate order also included technical guidelines to be followed when the next rate filings are made in 2010, and requires Citizens to respond to concerns raised regarding Monroe County rates. Members of the grass-roots organization, Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe, at the public rate expressed concern that the computer model Citizens uses to calculate rates does not take into account several factors specific to Monroe County.

“It was responsible and prudent,” said Gov. Charlie Crist, who has in the past opposed rate increases by State Farm and other major private insurers. “We want to make sure that any carrier in Florida maintains their viability in the event we would have a hurricane so that those policies could be honored.”