Tallahassee, Florida -- Marco Tarafa was stunned to find that
his homeowners' policy is increasing by nearly $1,000 a year - all
because inspectors couldn't get into his attic, where there was no crawl
space and about 24 inches of insulation.
was a customer of state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. for
eight years, and his rates had been stable during much of that time -
until now. Tarafa pays $2,200 for his policy on his 1,800-square-foot,
ranch-style home in Miami Gardens. Unless something changes between now
and when the policy renews in May, he's looking at a $980 increase, a
hike of nearly 45 percent.
"Just because of that, they can't get into my roof!" Tarafa said.
is among thousands of Florida homeowners forced to take coverage
offered by Citizens and a target for being moved to another company in
Citizens' attempts to downsize.
Tarafa and millions of other Florida businesses and homeowners,
property insurance rates keep soaring even though a hurricane hasn't
made a direct hit over the state in seven years.
average Florida homeowner is paying twice as much for insurance than
just six years ago, according to industry statistics. In some areas, the
increases are much higher.
from the New York-based Insurance Information Institute show
homeowners' claims are up by an average of more than 17 percent in the
past decade. They are virtually due to non-catastrophe claims involving
water. In many instances, they are claims for issues ranging from leaky
toilets to burst water heaters. Florida's rates have also been hurt by
soaring claims on losses from sinkholes.
more industry-friendly Office of Insurance Regulation, pressured by
Gov. Rick Scott and a Republican-led Legislature, means consumers pay
little competition in the Florida property insurance market because many
consumers can buy from only one company - usually Citizens. Founded by
the Legislature in 2002 for homeowners who could not get private
policies, it has become the state's largest property insurance company
with more than 1.3 million customers after shedding some 160,000
policies in recent weeks to private companies.
Scott, of course, wants premiums to go up and he wants Citizens to be
depopulated at any cost to the policyholder," said state Rep. Mike
Fasano, whose west Florida district encompasses the highest
concentration of Citizens policy owners in the state. "Citizens is only
there because, unfortunately, so many couldn't find insurance anywhere
Citizens says it would need a 16.4 percent premium increase on all products in 2013 to be actuarially sound.