Rates on the Rise

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Andrea Pelletier

Property insurance rates have been on the rise, and it doesn’t look like that will end any time soon.

“On average, we’ve been seeing 30% to 50% increases, and I do not see any trend in the future that is going to change that,” says John Gardner, owner/president of Lee County Insurance Agency.

A major reason for those increases is the cost of litigation over roofing replacement claims. Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier outlined some eye-opening stats in an April 2 letter to Florida Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, chair of the state’s commerce committee.

Using data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Market Conduct Annual Statement, Altmaier’s office found that Florida accounted for just over 8% of all U.S. homeowners’ claims in 2019. But more than 76% of all homeowner lawsuits opened against insurance companies in the country were in Florida. And that ratio has been pretty similar since 2016.

By now, everyone’s heard stories about roofing contractors who knock on homeowners’ doors to sell them a roof replacement fully paid for by their insurance company. However, many homeowners don’t realize that those contractors are working in tandem with an attorney who files a lawsuit to collect. That problem’s not going to go away “until we get relief as an industry … and get the lawyers to dip their toe into someone else’s pond,” says Gardner.

During the 2021 legislative session, the Florida Legislature did pass SB 76, which Gov. DeSantis signed into law. That bill included provisions making it illegal for roofing contractors or someone acting on their behalf to use forms of “prohibited advertisement” to solicit claims or to offer anything of value, such as gift cards, to perform roof inspections or file claims.

But Gardner said the bill was a watered-down version of what was originally discussed. And after a Florida roofing company challenged the “prohibited advertisement” portion of the law as a violation of free speech, a federal judge blocked the state from enforcing that part of the law in July. So questions remain as to the true effect the law will have on the insurance industry.

Even if the law does have an impact, it will take some time before that’s felt. “Everyone says it would be 18 to 24 months before we start to see any relief,” says Andrea Pelletier, client adviser, private risk services at Gulfshore Insurance. “We could see some more rate increases up to another two years. I really think people need to be budgeting. Be aware of the fact that rates are probably still going to go up, and budget accordingly for that.”

Andrea Pelletier

Gardner’s also been seeing rate increases of about 30% for business property insurance. And the Surfside condo collapse will likely have a major influence on the commercial residential insurance market. “We’re not going to know the repercussions of that until we figure out exactly what happened,” says Gardner.

So what should a business or homeowner be doing right now? Keep in touch with your agent and let them know if you’ve made any improvements to your property that could affect your bill. “A lot of folks had roof replacements or made home improvements like getting high-impact-rated windows or shutters,” says Pelletier. “Those things are going to help manage the cost.”

Now’s not the time to shop around, even if you’re hit with an increase from your current insurance provider. “If your policy is offered as a renewal, you really need to take it,” says Gardner.

And be kind to your agent, who’s not happy with the current situation either. “Agents are just scrambling to take care of their existing customers,” says Gardner. “But it’s not the agents’ fault; we just, unfortunately are the bearer of bad news sometimes.”

 

A FLOOD OF CHANGES?

FEMA is updating the methodology used to set pricing for the National Flood Insurance Program, so expect to see some rate changes there, too. Rates will rise in some cases, but not everyone is expected to see increases.

“One thing that will be part of the rating criteria is that properties are going to be rated based on the value of the home, which FEMA has not done before,” says Pelletier. “So higher-value properties are going to pay more for the same coverage.”

The new rates go into effect Oct. 1 for new policies and existing policies eligible for renewal.

 

Courtesy Gulfshore Insurance, Getty

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