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Florida regulators approve biggest-ever removal of policies from Citizens Property Insurance

Published Sep. 5, 2014

Florida insurance regulators have approved a dozen private insurers to assume more than 425,000 policies from Citizens Property Insurance, the single largest one-time removal of Citizens' policies.

Thursday's decision by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation is viewed as a significant step toward Citizens' goal of shrinking its presence in Florida.

The state-run insurer, which has about 933,000 policies and receives about 4,000 new applications a week, is the largest property insurer statewide. That's been a statewide albatross for years because every Floridian with an insurance policy is on the hook to be assessed if Citizens cannot pay claims after a major storm.

Fourteen insurers can take out "up to" 425,357 personal residential properties and 2,227 commercial residential policies from Citizens. However, they may choose to take out far fewer if the policies don't meet their criteria, Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier said.

Given that latitude, Peltier anticipates the final number of policies taken out by private insurers "will probably be significantly lower" than 425,000.

Nevertheless, between the takeouts and a new online clearinghouse to place homeowners with private coverage before they can apply to Citizens, he still anticipates the company's policy count will fall below 900,000 by year's end.

Barry Gilway, Citizens' president and CEO, welcomed the regulatory approval, saying, "It shows that the office believes the private market is robust, financially sound and looking for opportunities in the Florida market."

Clearwater-based Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Co. and Elements Property Insurance Co. of Tallahassee were the two biggest recipients of Citizens' personal residential business, approved to take out 70,000 and 60,000 policies, respectively.

Other companies approved for another round of takeouts are American Integrity Insurance Co.; Avatar Property & Casualty Insurance Co.; Capitol Preferred Insurance Co.; Mount Beacon Insurance Co.; Olympus Insurance Co.; Safepoint Insurance Co.; Southern Fidelity Insurance Co.; Southern Fidelity Property & Casualty Insurance Co.; Southern Oak Insurance Co.; Tower Hill Signature Insurance Co.; United Property & Casualty Insurance Co.; and Universal Insurance Co. of North America.

The majority of the personal lines accounts are noncoastal.

The insurers have until Nov. 18 for the personal residential takeouts and until Nov. 4 for the commercial takeouts.

Contact Jeff Harrington at jharrington@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3434. Follow @JeffMHarrington.

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