PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — High-rise condos in Florida are feeling the financial squeeze with new structural mandates and rising insurance costs; now, individual condo homeowners with Citizens Property Insurance have to get flood coverage for their units, even if they’re 10 stories above ground.
Mike Steurer lives in a 14-story high-rise condo just before the Skyway tollbooth in St Petersburg.
“We are on the 10th floor, and I’m being told I’ve got to have flood insurance,” Steurer exclaimed to ABC Action News Reporter Stassy Olmos. “To me, that doesn’t make a lot of sense paying for a product that I’ll never need, being that high up.”
The condo is more than a piece of paradise to him.
“My family bought the condo, my grandparents, back in 1972. The building was originally built in ‘67. It was government housing and, in ‘72, winter condos. So my family has owned it since then, and my wife and I were lucky enough in 2012 to be able to purchase this, and we want to use it for our retirement,” Stuerer explained.
He’s five years from that dream retirement from working as an assistant fire chief and running a manufacturer furniture warehouse in Indiana. Still, he said watching the increasing cost of living in paradise is worrisome.
A few months ago, he received a letter from his property insurance company, Citizens Property Insurance, that he’ll have to get supplemental flood insurance for the contents inside his condo.
Stuerer explained that Citizens, the state-backed insurer with caps on insurance rate increases, is the most reasonably priced property coverage he could find in the Florida market with the soaring insurance cost.
The Citizens condo flood insurance mandate is a new requirement passed in last year’s second legislative special session on property insurance. A spokesperson for Citizen’s told Olmos in April that separate flood insurance aims to help minimize any possible litigation of wind versus flood damage in future storms. The company now has just under 1.2 million policies.
But Steuer is also on the association board of his condo building and said the costs are skyrocketing — from insurance to new structural mandates.
“Insurance has killed us this year. Our flood insurance went up. Our regular insurance increased 75% when you only budgeted 25%. So it blew our budget out of water,” he exclaimed.
From 2021 to 2022, Steurer said the building’s flood coverage went from $97,000 to $110,000, a 14% increase. In addition, their property insurance went from $106,000 to $187,000, a 77% increase.
“We’ve already raised the HOA fees because we did our due diligence for the new law because of the condo collapse,” he exclaimed.
After the Surfside Condo Collapse in 2021, where nearly 100 people died, Florida lawmakers passed Senate Bill 4D requiring milestone inspections for condominiums and for each association to have enough reserves to make any necessary repairs that may be found during the inspection.
“It’s like, ‘Oh my god, how are we going to pay for this?’” Steurer stressed. “So we’re going to have to do an assessment to cover all these costs.”
At the end of the legislative session in May, Florida lawmakers passed a revision to the original Citizens Property Insurance flood mandate excluding condominium units.
The bill went to the governor for signature on May 16.
“We’re encouraging folks to go back and talk to their agents. You know, we’re expecting these, these changes to go into effect,” Citizens Spokesperson Michael Peltier told Olmos.
Olmos asked what would happen if the mandate does change and new customers have already been mandated to get flood coverage since April 1 as part of the phased-in approach to the mandate.
“Right now, the law is that, for new policyholders, you’re required to have flood insurance to obtain a Citizens policy; that law remains in effect until it has changed,” Peltier explained.
Olmos also contacted FEMA, the agency that runs the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which provides most policies. She asked if the agency would allow condo owners to cancel if the mandate is removed.
A spokesperson said in an email response that policyholders can get a refund if they request to cancel within the 30-day waiting period before the policy goes into effect.
They clarified that NFIP only allows mid-term cancellations if a lender no longer requires flood insurance.
Citizens still advise anyone within the state of Florida, in a high-rise or not, to have flood insurance.
Citizens and FEMA recommend that condo owners talk with their insurance agent to see the options.
More information on the Citizen’s flood insurance mandate:
For homeowners with Citizens in a FEMA-designated flood zone, new policies had to get flood insurance by April 1, and any policy renewals have until July 1, 2023.
For those not in flood zones, it depends on your property value:
Homeowners can visit FloodSmart.gov or the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation website for information about flood insurance and to find a flood insurance provider. However, according to Citizens, there may be a waiting period to obtain flood insurance.
Report a typo
WHAT IS THE PRICE OF PARADISE?
As Tampa Bay continues to attract new residents and businesses, the impact of living in paradise comes at a cost for all of us— from the increasing cost of housing and infrastructure to utilities and insurance. ABC Action News is committed to helping you and your family make the most of your money and navigate through the Price of Paradise.