Christina Vazquez, Reporter
Chris Gothner, Digital Journalist
Christina Vazquez, Reporter
Chris Gothner, Digital Journalist
MIAMI – One of Florida’s largest home insurers is exiting the market, leaving thousands of homeowners scrambling to find new coverage as options continue to dwindle in the Sunshine State.
United Property & Casualty Insurance Company, based in St. Petersburg, announced Thursday that it filed a plan of withdrawal in Florida and also plans to exit three other states.
It comes right in the middle of hurricane season and amid an exodus of companies from the market.
“The situation we’re seeing today with UPC is another chapter in the downfall of Florida’s private insurance market,” Mark Friedlander, the Florida spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, said.
Friedlander calls Florida’s property insurance market the “most volatile in the U.S.” and says virtually every homeowner in Florida will be impacted, either scrambling to find coverage, or those who have coverage paying more for what they have.
Coconut Creek insurance agent Dustyn Shroff said the insurance market in Florida has “collapsed.”
“Citizens Insurance, the company of last resort, was not designed to take on this many policies,” Shroff said. “As a local insurance agent, we find out about these cancellations at the same time the homeowner does.”
Dr. Allen Lavina and his wife purchased a home in Sunrise back in 2019. The first-time homeowners were able to secure insurance and made their mortgage payments on time. But, recently, the couple was given a notice from their insurance company: “we’re reducing exposure in the area.”
“There are going to be people who lose their mortgages and are forced out of their homes because of this.” -David Quinones, Homeowner
“My wife and I are trying to decide are we going stay in Florida.” -Dr. Allen Lavina, Homeowner#PropertyInsurance #Florida #Homeowners pic.twitter.com/eO9TsIKyKV
“We had a good amount of time to find other insurance, however, they won’t insure us because our roof is too old,” Lavina said. “We signed a contract to have our roof done, but we were told ‘supplies are delayed’ and it will take months until it’s done. Unfortunately, we are now under hazard insurance with our mortgager which of course is not ideal given our limited income at this time.”
David Quinones started a Facebook group for Floridians dropped by their homeowners’ insurance. It’s called Forced Out Florida.
“I’ve been dropped by my homeowners insurance effective in July and was also refused by Citizens because of an arbitrary rule they passed in February disallowing new policies if the dwelling has ever had more than two non-weather related water claims,” Quinones said. “So we are truly locked out of the market and our mortgage and home itself is imperiled.”
Friedlander said Florida’s elevated hurricane risk isn’t to blame for the crisis.
“We look down the road in Louisiana and see they’ve had seven storms strike the state in the last few years, Florida has had no direct strikes,” he said. “So you can’t blame hurricanes. This is 100% a man-made crisis driven by years of rampant risk fraud replacement schemes and excessive litigation filed against insurers.”
Friedlander zeroed in on roof repair fraud.
“Roof repair fraud schemes are the fuel that’s lighting the fire behind the rampant litigation being filed against Florida property insurers,” he said.
Local 10 News has tips on how to scam-proof your home after a storm
Friedlander said the legislature failed to address fraud and litigation issues during last May’s special session on property insurance reform.
#DigitalDeepDive: “#Florida's #propertyinsurance market continues to be the most volatile in the U.S… you can't blame hurricanes. This is 100%, a man-made crisis driven by years of rampant risk #fraud replacement schemes and excessive #litigation.” –@markfri09 @iiiorg pic.twitter.com/zPWsWQBsKw
Homeowners said the state needs to do more.
“If they try to put some patches or Band-Aids on it, we still have an existential dilemma,” Quinones said. “Like, how are we going to live in Florida?”
Homeowner Neal Bloom also expressed disappointment in the government’s response.
“I’m very disappointed the Florida government refuses to acknowledge or do anything for relief,” Bloom said. “I’ve sent emails to my congressman but none of their replies was what I wanted to hear. We have a small mortgage on our home, very high credit scores, pay our bills on time. So I think it’s unfair that people in our situation are penalized because others decided to file fraudulent claims for new roofs from prior hurricanes, which was the excuse I’m getting as to why we were dropped just like that.”
Bloom recently had to go back into the Citizens pool after being dropped by his carrier, increasing his premium by more than $1,000 per year. He said he ended up having to spend thousands of dollars just to pass the company’s required inspection.
For some, like Lavina, the crisis is making them question whether they want to remain in the Sunshine State.
“My wife and I are trying to decide are we going stay in Florida,” Lavina said.
Friedlander said don’t expect things to get better in the near term.
“We’re seeing no signs of stability at this point and unfortunately, we expect to continue to see deterioration in the Florida insurance market throughout the rest of the year,” he said.
A number of home insurers have gone bankrupt in 2022, Friedlander said. He provided a list of companies that have either become insolvent or exited the market.
2022 Florida Home Insurer Insolvencies:
Florida home insurer that announced exit from market due to ongoing volality and litigious environment (company will still write small commercial, renters and flood insurance in Florida):
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Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."
Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.
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