To illustrate how the property insurance issue in Florida has become a full-on crisis, just look at how Brandon insurance agent Kevin Swanson’s own annual rates have escalated in recent years.

What You Need To Know

  • The annual cost of an average Florida homeowner’s insurance policy is expected to rise to $4,231, nearly three times more than the U.S. annual average of $1,544, according to a recent analysis

  • According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR),  Florida has accounted for 79% of the nation’s homeowner’s insurance lawsuits over claims filed, while making up only 9% of the nation’s homeowner’s insurance claims

  • Citizen’s Property Insurance Corp., the state-back property insurer of last resort, has seen its policy count reach a million customers. That’s more than double the number that the insurer had at the beginning of 2020

From 2013 to 2018, his annual homeowner’s insurance policy cost him about $1,800. But last year his rate increased to $3,823.

“A 238% increase? That’s not sustainable, and it’s going to create an unaffordability in the state of Florida for people to move down here and live in Florida,” Swanson told Spectrum Bay News 9 last week.

Homeowner’s insurance policies have skyrocketed in 2022, driven by fraud, lawsuits and escalating property values. Property insurers are leaving the state, pushing more people to sign up with Citizens Property Insurance, the state-backed insurer of last resort.

The dire situation prompted Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature to convene a special session to address property insurance in May. The Legislature approved $2 billion to help insurers pay hurricane damage claims, limit lawsuits against companies and have homeowners take responsibility for more of the costs for roof replacements. That led Gov. DeSantis to declare that the session had led to the “most significant reforms to the Florida property insurance market in a generation.”

Brandon-based property insurance agent Kevin Swanson says Gov. DeSantis needs to call another special session to deal with the property insurance issue immediately after the Nov. election (Mitch Perry/Spectrum Bay News 9)

But according to an analysis by the Insurance Information Institute, the problems with the property insurance market in Florida “appear to be escalating,” because the Legislature did not take strong enough actions to address the crisis.

“That’s why we’ve seen two companies declared insolvent since the special session,” says Mark Friedlander, the Florida spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute. ‘We’ve seen eight other companies announce a moratorium on writing new business, including one company that said that they’re planning on leaving the home market because the Legislature has not solved the crisis. Their concern is that this is a losing battle. We cannot continue to operate in a market where expense pressures are so high because of litigation. We can’t survive in that scenario.”

Swanson agrees.

“I’m hopeful that the changes will work in time,” he says. “But I’m more hopeful and I’m more optimistic that after this election, our Legislature will get to work and start fixing this for the Floridian homeowner.”

The issue is potent for voters this election year.

“The main concerns I hear are people being dropped from their insurance carrier, which results in people going to Citizens Insurance at a premium rate, or their carrier renewing them at a higher rate than the previous year,” attorney Jesse Philippe, a Democratic candidate for the House District 62 seat this month. “This is a quiet issue affecting many people in the district.”

Among those tens (if not hundreds) of thousands who have lost their policies this year is St. Petersburg attorney Rohom Khonsari, who said he initially didn’t know where to turn when he was informed by his carrier that they were dropping his policy.

“Because if this company was going bankrupt, I didn’t know what other companies would have available policies,” he says. “I figured that if this was an issue with this company, it was going to be an issue for a lot of different companies.”

The two major Democrats running to oppose Gov. DeSantis in November, Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried, have laid out extensive plans to address the crisis if elected.

Fried called on DeSantis earlier this month to use the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund instead of Citizens Property Insurance as a reinsurance backstop, reform the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to be more accessible for smaller companies, and rescind the 6.4% rate increase for Citizen’s Property Insurance that the OIR recently approved. She has also called for appointing a task force to focus on fraud prevention, frivolous lawsuits and ways to recruit new providers to the state and increasing the authority of the State’s Insurance Advocate to serve as a consumer advocate.

Crist unveiled his plan to tackle property insurance reform back in May. His proposals include eliminating the 25% surcharge that homeowners pay into the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund; creating an insurance fraud task force to crack down on fraudulent claims and making companies who sell auto insurance policies in the state to sell homeowner’s insurance policies."

Swanson says the issue transcends partisan politics and must be addressed, otherwise he contends that “Florida is going to become unaffordable for the average American.” He wants Gov. DeSantis to call another special session to deal with property insurance immediately after the November election.

According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), Florida has accounted for 79% of the nation’s homeowner’s insurance lawsuits over claims filed, while making up only 9% of the nation’s homeowner’s insurance claims.