- Despite lawsuit restrictions, insurance experts say storm risks propelling rising rates
- NFIP claims paid after Hurricane Ian exceeded $3.4bn in March
- Floridas lawsuit deluge threatens weakened insurance market: Triple-I
- Floridas lawsuit deluge threatens weakened insurance market
- Florida imposes 1% emergency fee to property insurance premiums
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Thursday, May 26 2022
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida House of Representatives on Wednesday gave final passage to sweeping property insurance legislation that creates a $2 billion reinsurance fund and rewrites rules on coverage denials and attorney fees, as lawmakers attempt to stabilize rising rates and insurer losses.
The legislative package now awaits the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican.
The bipartisan vote in the House capped a special legislative session in which lawmakers approved the broad insurance proposals in three days with little expert analysis in public. Still, many lawmakers said that the measures represented a meaningful way to begin to solve problems in the market, with more work to be done in the future.
“I don't think, unfortunately, that our constituents are going to see the results that they want to see right away, but I do think this is an important first step for us to take, but it can't be the last step,” said Rep. Fentrice Driskell, a Democrat.
Democrats, the minority party in the statehouse, often pushed to insert measures to ensure rate decreases or freezes but were thwarted by Republicans who argued the wide-ranging legislation could yield decreases in the next 12 to 18 months.
The insurance industry has had two years of underwriting losses exceeding $1 billion each year and several insurance companies have either gone insolvent, required midterm cancellations, are in liquidation or have stopped writing new business since 2021, the governor said in his proclamation calling lawmakers back to the Capitol. The loss of private insurers has driven property owners to Citizens Property Insurance, a state-run public insurer meant to be a last resort.
The proposals passed Wednesday would create the $2 billion Reinsurance to Assist Policyholders program for insurers to purchase insurance to help insulate themselves from risk. In order for an insurer to access the fund, it would have to reduce policyholder’s rates.
The bills would forbid insurers from automatically denying coverage because of a roof’s age if the roof is less than 15 years old. Homeowners with roofs 15 years or older would be allowed to get an inspection before insurers deny them coverage. If an inspection shows that a roof has at least five years of life remaining, insurers can’t refuse to issue a policy only based on the roof’s age, under the proposed legislation.
If a roof is more than 25% damaged but already complies with the state’s 2007 building code, it would only have to be repaired instead of replaced under an exemption to the building code that the proposed legislation creates.
Another measure would provide grants worth up to $10,000 each to retrofit homes so they are less vulnerable to hurricane damage. To qualify, properties would have to have insured values of $500,000 or less, be homesteaded, constructed before 2008 and located in areas where wind speeds from storms can exceed 140 mph (225 kph). Homeowners would get $2 from the state for every $1 they invested in mitigation efforts.
The legislation also seeks to limit various attorney fees in insurance-related cases, which insurers blame for much of the rate increases for policyholders. Supporters of the legislative package have frequently noted that Florida accounted for 9% of all insurance claims filed nationally but nearly 80% of all the property insurance lawsuits.
The package also includes a measure to require that all condominiums higher than three stories statewide have periodic inspections of their structural integrity, a proposal that came in response to the Surfside condominium collapse that killed 98 people nearly a year ago.
The bills would allow for more state oversight so regulators can spot trends, analyze reasons and try to prevent the future failure of insurers.
Insurance customer Mimi Bright said the premium on her Parkland home jumped from about $4,500 a year to more than $7,500 after her previous insurance company went out of business. She had opened a claim for water damage in December and no other private insurance company would sell her a policy when she had an open claim.
Bright said the state-run Citizens Property Insurance initially refused to give her a policy but eventually relented, leaving her with a more than 60% premium increase from her old policy.
“Right now, that is my only option because it is the only company in the state of Florida that will write with an open claim with an exception,” Bright said.
Tuesday, May 24 2022
Hurricane season is here—check out the following tips to keep you and your family, as well as your car, boat or RV safe in case severe weather strikes.
Tips to make sure your car is hurricane-ready
With most of your focus on your family and home, you may not think much about your car during a hurricane. But, it may just be your key to safety if you need to evacuate.
Make sure your car is ready and that you understand how to drive in severe conditions.
Well in advance:
If a storm is forecast:
If you’re ordered to evacuate or are returning home after an evacuation:
Tips to make sure your boat is hurricane-ready
Know how to protect your boat if a hurricane or other severe weather event is approaching. We developed these tips with help from the U.S. Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Administration. Ultimately, the best way to protect your vessel is to remove it from the water, and all other measures are supplemental in the event this can’t be done.
Whether your boat is docked, anchored, or in dry storage:
If your boat is docked:
If your boat is anchored:
If your boat is in dry storage:
With any of these scenarios, if you’re out of town, ask a friend or relative with access to your boat to help. Sure, you’ll “owe him,” but that favor could help prevent some very expensive damage.
Of course, the most important thing to remember is to protect yourself. Never put yourself in danger while trying to protect your boat.
Tips to make sure your RV is hurricane-ready
Your RV can help you and your family evacuate an area, and serve as a cost-effective, temporary living space if your home isn’t livable due to storm damage.
Here are a few tips to make sure your RV is hurricane-ready.
Well in advance:
If a storm is in the forecast:
Monday, May 16 2022
Monday, May 16 2022
Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Co. reported more losses for the first quarter of 2022 and a spike in its combined ratio. But company officials said Friday they are taking aggressive steps, including rate increases, policy changes and tightened underwriting requirements, to improve the Florida-domiciled company’s financial profile.
The Friday earnings call for the publicly traded Heritage came the same day that the carrier filed notice with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation that it would cut the eligibility age of metal, slate and tile roofs from 25 to 15 years for new homeowner policies, beginning June 1. A number of Florida insurers, including Heritage, have aleady reduced the age of covered shingle roofs to 10 years, but this may be one of the first filings to tighten requirements on metal and tile, which are generally expected to last for decades.
The conference call also came two weeks after Tampa-based Heritage filed for an endorsement requiring binding arbitration for claims disputes, beginning July 1 for new and renewing homeowners policies.
“Given the turbulent state of the market, rampant with fraud and abuse, we are proposing changes that will control exploitation,” reads a memo accompanying the April 26 filing with OIR.
The filing came two months after OIR surprised many in the industry when it approved an endorsement from American Heritage Insurance Co., offering arbitration in exchange for a premium discount for policyholders. But Heritage, facing weather losses and spiraling litigation expenses, appears to be taking it a step further, with no mention of a trade-off.
“If you and we fail to agree on whether there is coverage for the loss, either party may, in writing, demand arbitration,” the Heritage endorsement reads. “An arbitration award shall be binding upon the parties as the issue of coverage and all damages and benefits due and owing under the policy.”
Both parties must pay for their respective arbitrators and experts. If the chosen arbitrators cannot reach agreement, the matter will go to a chief arbitrator, paid for by Heritage, the endorsement notes. The insured and the insurer will pay their own attorney fees and policyholders will not be able to recover the legal costs from the insurer, as is currently allowed by statute for some claimants who prevail in litigation.
Heritage homeowner policies, like most insurers’ policies, already call for non-binding mediation and an appraisal panel to help settle disputes before litigation. But the arbitration clause is new, according to the OIR filing. The regulatory agency has not indicated if or when the endorsement will be approved.
Insurance groups have embraced the idea of more arbitration as a way to avoid costly litigation, and more carriers are expected to file similar endorsements in coming months. The special session of the Florida Legislature, which meets May 23-27, also is slated to consider ways to expand the use of arbitration.
Policyholder attorneys and consumer advocates have expressed concern, arguing that arbitration does not follow the rules of court and can take away homeowners’ right of appeal and due process.
The Heritage earnings call did not mention the new arbitration endorsement. But company officials did name other steps the company is taking to stem losses.
“We will continue to seek rate changes commensurate with our cost of doing business,” Heritage CEO Ernie Garateix said. “We are committed to proactively and appropriately raising rates to offset higher loss costs and taking actions to improve our profitability throughout the year.”
“We will consider all options,” Chief Financial Officer Kirk Lusk said.
The company’s first quarter 2022 financial results show a $31 million loss, a big increase over this time last year, but less red ink than the $49 million loss in the fourth quarter of 2021. The combined ratio also shot up, to 129.5% for Q1 2022. That’s significantly worse than the 107.7% reported in Q1 2021 and the profitable 93.2% reported for the last quarter of last year.
Financial analysts on the call wondered about Heritage’s unusually large amount of catastrophe losses this year. The company reported net accident year weather losses of $64 million – double the prior year’s Q1 results. The weather losses included $45 million in catastrophe losses, despite no hurricanes so far this spring.
Lusk said the losses were due to six significant weather events, most of them in Florida, in January. Heritage also writes in six Southeastern states as well as other states.
Heritage’s Q1 2022 financial report also shows that it has continued to pull back from the trouble-plagued Florida market, shedding almost 18% of its policies in the state and about 15% of its totaled insured value there.
Across its book of business in all states, Heritage also has seen an average premium increase of 21%, company leaders said.
The financial results, posted a few days before the earnings call, did not soothe Wall Street. Two investment research firms, Zachs Investment Research and StockNews.com, last week downgraded the Heritage stock from a “buy” rating to a “hold.” The stock price closed Friday at $3.72 per share, down sharply from a week before, when the preliminary financial results were posted.
Since the end of March, the stock price has lost half its value, according to Yahoo!Finance and other stock trackers.
Heritage continues to enjoy an “A, exceptional” financial stability rating from the Demotech rating firm.
Monday, May 16 2022
Who would have thought, given what many have called a crisis in the Florida property insurance market, that an insurance company would decide it could improve its bottom line by focusing solely on the storm-plagued Sunshine State?
FedNat Insurance, formerly known as Federated National, is planning to do just that, according to a third quarter financial report from the Florida-based carrier’s holding company. The publicly traded firm (Nasdaq: FNHC) said it is pulling out of all other states after being battered by major storm losses in Texas and Louisiana in the last two years.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a smart move; more of a necessary move,” said Paul Newsome, an insurance industry analyst with Piper Sandler investment bank.
FedNat, founded in Florida in 1992, has been ranked as the fourth-largest homeowners’ carrier in the state in recent years. It expanded into other Southern states, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina, in 2013. The company accelerated that expansion in 2019 – just in time for a devastating winter storm in Texas early this year and Hurricane Ida, which struck Louisiana this year and left as much as $30 billion in industry claims in its wake.
“The impact of these significant catastrophe weather events has put a strain on FedNat’s capital position and further action is now appropriate. We are therefore exiting the non-Florida markets and refocusing on the improving Florida homeowners’ market…” FedNat CEO Michael Braun said in a report to investors, posted Monday.
Despite recent signals from some Florida-based insurers that they are facing continued losses and “a sea of red ink” from storms, roofing claims and litigation, the Florida market may have improved somewhat for FedNat in the last two years. State lawmakers approved measures designed to reduce assignment of benefits agreements and litigation, and regulators have allowed several significant rate increases for struggling carriers. FedNat has been allowed rate increases amounting to 70% over the last four years.
FedNat also has pared back its Florida book of business by a third, from 272,000 policies in force in 2017 to 168,000 at the end of the third quarter this year. But premiums remained stable at $430 million, due to the rate increases, the company explained.
“As a result, we believe now is the right time to focus on writing policies in Florida, where FedNat continues to have significant market share, strong underwriting and claims handling capabilities, and strong agent relationships,” Braun said in the statement.
The move does not necessarily mean Florida’s market is stabilizing or that FedNat is out of the woods.
“It’s definitely been a challenging quarter for FedNat,” Newsome said.
Braun could not be reached for comment Tuesday. But the financial release said FedNat Insurance Co. was propped up with a $20 million infusion capital from its holding company in September. The company also experienced a net loss of almost $25 million for the third quarter, compared to a loss of $21 million in Q3 2020.
Total revenue decreased by 31% in the third quarter this year and the combined ratio stood at 165.4, well above the U.S. property and casualty industry average of 97.5 for 2020, according to Statista research.
Losses and loss adjustment expenses actually decreased by $39 million – almost 40% – for the third quarter of this year, FedNat reported. The quarter included about $20 million in catastrophe losses from Hurricane Ida. But the numbers were an improvement over this time last year, when the carrier saw $38 million in catastrophe losses due to Hurricane Laura, which struck part of Louisiana, and from Hurricane Sally, which hit the Florida Panhandle.
FedNat may have run into other issues with its Louisiana claims. The company was listed as having 157 complaints from homeowner policyholders in early 2021, the second-highest number, behind the much-larger State Farm Insurance, according to the Louisiana Department of Insurance. In Florida, FedNat ranked fifth, with 339 complaints or about half as many complaints as the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reported.
One industry source wasn’t convinced that FedNat’s retreat to Florida will help it in the long run, particularly if Florida is hit by more intense hurricanes in coming years, as expected.
“If thinly capitalized (firms) cannot survive in Texas and Louisiana, it’s hard to see how better pricing in Florida would make a business more sustainable if that state also experienced a few more multi-billion industry loss storms,” wrote Artemis, a reinsurance and insurance securities analysis firm.
FedNat may be able to expand its Florida book as Citizens moves to depopulate, Artemis suggested. Citizens is the largest carrier in Florida and is expected to reach more than 1 million policies by the end of next year. The company has taken several steps to move homeowners to other carriers, including the launch of an aggressive property inspection program over the next four years.
A FedNat spokesman said Tuesday that the carrier would only accept Citizens customers who will pay FedNat’s rates and meet its underwriting standards.
Other industry experts said that while the Florida property insurance market may be more troubled than other states’ markets, many coastal areas are producing big losses for insurers. Florida’s insurance regulator, who is appointed, may have allowed the recent rate hikes while elected insurance commissioners in other states have not.
“They’re cutting their losses and refocusing on their core business in Florida,” Michael Carlson, president of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, said about FedNat. “But it’s unfortunate to hear of their financial situation. We need a healthy market here. We need a whole mix of companies writing in the state.”
Despite the problems in the Florida market, FedNat appears to be positioned to survive in the state, said Paul Handerhan, president of FAIR, Federal Association for Insurance Reform, which is based in Florida. He noted that FedNat has sufficient surplus and reinsurance needed to achieve a favorable rating from Demotech, the financial rating service, and to withstand at least two significant storm events in the same year.
To unwind its operations in other states, FedNat said it will “commence an orderly runoff” of its subsidiary, Maison Insurance Co., and will soon file a withdrawal plan with state regulators. Nonrenewals of Maison policies will begin in January in Louisiana, in February in Texas, and in June in Florida.
Demotech recently informed FedNat that it has withdrawn its rating for Maison.
FedNat’s non-Florida book of business has been written through SageSure, a managing general underwriter. By next month, SageSure will work with policyholders to move policies to other carriers, FedNat’s report said. The runoff and transfer should take about 18 months.
“We expect the benefits of this transition to begin to materialize immediately in the form of lower capital requirements and lower exposure to catastrophe weather losses,” Braun said.