Let’s go windstorm alone now

By Steve Estes

Property owners in the Florida Keys can plan to pay more for windstorm insurance coverage next year if they use Citizen’s Insurance.

That thrilling bit of news became apparent when Citizens Property Insurance held its regular meeting recently. The state-run insurer of last resort, which is the only company through which Keys’ property owners can obtain windstorm insurance, has determined that in order to cover losses from increasing sinkhole claims in the interior areas of Florida, the coastal communities will have to absorb more of the premium paying.

You read that right, we think, we are told, and no, it didn’t make sense to us either.

Citizens representatives got an earful from South Florida homeowners last week when the insurer said it might raise windstorm rates more than seven percent across the board, on top of the 10 percent already allowed by Legislative action.

The stated goal of the rate increase is to make Citizens less of a risk for the Florida taxpayer by driving people off the rolls.

Yeah, you read that right, we think, we’re told, and no, it didn’t make any sense to us either.

Citizens has been told to depopulate the number of policies it carries by our Governor, who as always, wants to entice some major corporation back into the state with no local jobs, all access handled by remote phone bank in Indonesia somewhere, that can declare bankruptcy on the newly formed division and pull up stakes after a storm leaving the state on the hook to pay off on the policies anyway.

Good move.

The property owners in the Florida Keys already pay the highest windstorm rates in the state. And for that privilege we get to subsidize the rest of the state to the tune of more than $500,000,000 in net profit to Citizens over the last 10 years.

Continued talk of increasing rates here has local officials believing we can do better on our own.

Research into the formation of a Keys-only windstorm insurance pool has already begun.

On another front, officials are also trying to get some private insurers interested in coming back to the Keys, using that $500,000,000 in net profits number as a hook. And the private folks are starting to take a serious look.

Some in the insurance industry feel a Keys-only pool would be unsustainable if the big one hits the island chain, but with our history, that seems to be a little gloomy.

What we have is a county where the building codes are the strongest in the state. If the building won’t withstand at least 155 mile-per-hour winds, it doesn’t get built.

What we have is a county where there are more dollars paid out in flood damages from rising water than from wind damage…a lot more.

That has people interested in seeing what profit can be made here from selling wind insurance that is rarely ever used.

If we can get Monroe County government and the Monroe County School Board, two of the largest landholders in the Keys, to jump on board, the pool becomes even stronger.

It is a risk to branch out on our own in something as uncertain as windstorm insurance, but it is a certainty that living with rising rates from Citizen’s Insurance will in the end cause more damage to personal finances.

Citizens is looking to chase away policies because the governor believes the state has too much risk. Maybe the state does have too much risk, but it’s not here in Monroe County.

The risk here is that Monroe County pulls out of Citizens and the homeowners on the mainland start picking up the tab for that $500 million in gross profits.

To make up for the sinkhole losses, interior Florida counties would have to see a jump in rates of more than 200 percent.

Those counties have a large voting population. We don’t. That works against us oftentimes.

Maybe we should see just how long the voters of more populous counties would continue to pay rates anywhere close to what we do now before they start voting only for people who have a real plan to fix windstorm insurance rates in the state.

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