Make us your home page
Instagram

Most Citizens Property customers in Tampa Bay will see lower rates

Most Tampa Bay area homeowners covered by Citizens Property Insurance will see their rates fall for the first time in years under a proposal disclosed Monday by the state-run insurer.

Citizens plans to cut rates in 2015 for nearly seven out of 10 policyholders statewide with the rates falling by an average of 3.2 percent. Mobile home owners would see average rates drop by 3.9 percent.

Among bay area counties, Citizens is proposing average rate cuts for most homeowners policies of 8 percent in Hillsborough; 8.9 percent in Pinellas; 6 percent in Pasco; and 9.5 percent in Citrus. Hernando County policyholders face an average increase of 0.4 percent.

Since 2010, state legislators have allowed Citizens to raise its rates up to an average 10 percent a year. For most property owners, Citizen now says, rates have caught up to become "actuarially sound." In other words, the higher rates now reflect the risk of insuring those properties.

"Pockets of inadequacy persist, mostly near the coast and for older homes, condos and mobile homes," Citizens said in its rate request. "But the majority of Citizens' policyholders will see an actuarially sound rate that is similar to last year's indications or even a bit lower."

Among the triggers for lower rates:

• Florida has enjoyed a string of eight hurricane-free years.

• Citizens is paying less for sinkhole claims after state legislators in 2011 changed the rules, largely limiting payouts in standard policies to cases of catastrophic ground collapse.

• The insurer is paying much less this year for reinsurance, an added layer of coverage that insurers buy to help pay catastrophe claims. Those savings are passed on through lower rates.

"Citizens has always been committed to charging only what is needed to establish actuarially sound rates and our proposed 2015 rates reflect that continued commitment," said Chris Gardner, the company's chairman of the board. "We've done nothing more than rely upon the same data we use every year to determine rates, and this year that data indicates a decrease is in order for most of our policyholders."

Citizens isn't alone. In a January report, Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said a half dozen of the state's 30 major property insurers had asked to cut rates by 2.4 percent to 9.2 percent.

McCarty's office has not updated that report. However, a summary of filings so far this year shows companies are split between seeking rate hikes and rate cuts. Among insurers cutting rates this year are Florida Peninsula, Safe Harbor and Southern Oak.

Consumer advocates welcome the reprieve. Florida homeowners, they are quick to point out, pay more for property insurance than residents of any other state.

"It's good news," said Bill Newton, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network. "We hope this would mean more of the private companies will reduce their rates as well."

Citizens, the state's largest insurer of homes, has actively tried to move many of its policyholders to private companies over the past few years. As of May 31, Citizens had fewer than 930,000 policies, down from about 1.5 million two years ago.

Many of the small, Florida-based companies that are taking on a bigger chunk of policies statewide in the past 10 years have not faced hurricane claims. Still, a dozen of them have failed during those hurricane-free years, even though state regulators assured they were sound. The latest example: regulators declared Jacksonville-based Sunshine State Insurance Co. insolvent this month, pushing its 37,000 policyholders to another carrier.

Before Citizens policyholders rejoice too much over Monday's news, they should recognize there's a caveat. As Citizens points out, even if a policyholder's base rate declines, their annual premium may still rise next year.

That's because the rates only refer to how much a homeowner must pay per $1,000 of insured value. A rise in property values and reconstruction costs can drive an annual policy premium higher, regardless of a falling insurance rate.

Citizens' Board of Governors will consider the recommended rate changes on Wednesday. The board, in turn, must submit its proposal to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation for approval.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3434.

Most Citizens Property customers in Tampa Bay will see lower rates 06/23/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 23, 2014 9:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Home of Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman hits market at $3.45 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is back on the market for $3.45 million after a brief hiatus.

    The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is on the market for $3.45 million. [Courtesy of Hi Res Media]
  2. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy

    Business

    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Will new laws protect condo owners from apartment conversions and rogue associations?

    Real Estate

    Danny Di Nicolantonio has lived in St. Petersburg's Calais Village Condominums for 33 years. Annoyed at times by the actions, or inaction, of the condo board and property managers, he has complained to the state agency that is supposed to investigate.

    That has left him even more annoyed.

    A bill passed by the Florida Legislature would affect places like The Slade in Tampa's Channelside district, where cCondominium owners have battled a plan to convert homes into apartments.
[Times file photo]
  4. Walmart opens first Pinellas County in-house training academy

    Retail

    Seminole — It had all the hallmarks of a typical graduation: robe-clad graduates marching in to Pomp and Circumstance, friends and family packed together under a sweltering tent and a lineup of speakers encouraging the graduates to take charge of their future.

    New Walmart Academy graduates are congratulated Thursday morning by associates during a graduation ceremony at the Walmart store, 10237 Bay Pines Boulevard, St. Petersburg. The Walmart location is one of the company's training academies where managers complete a one week retail course. David Shultz and Richard Sheehan, both from St. Petersburg, get high fives from the crowd.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Lawsuit: Florida contractor fakes death to dodge angry homeowners

    Human Interest

    SEMINOLE — For weeks, Glenn Holland, 67, crawled out of bed before the sun rose to look for a dead man.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]