1. Business

Floridians pay highest home­owners insurance rates in U.S.

Published Dec. 18, 2013

TALLAHASSEE — Floridians are paying the highest home­owners insurance rates in the nation, even though the state has not been hit by a hurricane in nearly a decade.

A national report released this week shows the average premium for most Florida homeowners is $1,933 a year, or nearly twice the national average of $978. Five of the six states with the highest rates are along the Gulf of Mexico.

The report by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners is based on 2011 rates and includes for the first time premiums paid by customers of state-created Citizens Property Insurance, the largest insurer in the state with more than 1 million policyholders.

Florida's insurance rates have risen steadily the past several years even though the state has not been hit by a hurricane since 2005. State regulators continued to approve rate increases this year, although there are signs that rates may finally be stabilizing.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who has complained that insurance rates in the state should be coming down, said he's not surprised by Florida's top ranking.

Atwater has asked Florida's top insurance regulator to give a detailed report about why most insurers in the state are not lowering their rates since reinsurance costs — one of the biggest expenses for companies — have been declining.

"I think people need to be informing the industry that we are watching and we have high expectations that the people of the state of Florida will begin to benefit from cost savings," Atwater said Tuesday.

Louisiana had the second-highest rates, followed by Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Alabama.

Sean Shaw, the former insurance consumer advocate for the state who is now running for the Legislature, said it was time for "politicians in Tallahassee" to "get this under control."

"Insurance companies haven't let the lack of major hurricanes hitting Florida get in the way of jacking up rates on policyholders," said Shaw, an attorney and founder of Policyholders for Florida. " 'Move to Florida for no income taxes, leave because you can't afford property insurance,' isn't the way to have a stable, healthy economy."