Florida regulator requests data on Champlain Towers South insurance policies

Such requests are typically issued after hurricanes.
Crews work in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South building, as removal and recovery work continues at the site of the partially collapsed condo building, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Crews work in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South building, as removal and recovery work continues at the site of the partially collapsed condo building, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]
Published July 14, 2021

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s insurance regulator has put out a request for all insurers to tell the state about any policies associated with the Surfside condominium building that collapsed late last month.

In a notice to companies on Saturday that’s typically reserved for hurricanes and disasters, the Office of Insurance Regulation requested insurers report virtually every type of policy in effect at the Champlain Towers South, from automobile coverage to life insurance to flood policies. Insurers were given a deadline of Wednesday this week.

An office spokesperson did not say why the data was requested or what regulators plan to do with it, only that it was “part of the state’s ongoing Surfside recovery efforts.”

“It is (the office’s) expectation that companies be exhaustive in their efforts to provide assistance, quickly respond to consumer inquiries, and reduce barriers to filing claims,” office spokesperson Alexis Bakofsky said in a statement.

On Wednesday, a receiver for the Champlain condo board said the property had $48 million of insurance coverage held by the Champlain condo association — $30 million for property damage and $18 million for personal injury. A handful of insurers have already paid or made commitments to pay the full personal injury coverage, while one other insurer appears ready to commit to the full property damage coverage, he said.

Florida’s insurance regulator does not possess detailed data on individual policies. But after natural disasters and other large-scale events, the office will often request that data from insurers.

Related: Surfside tragedy rattles Florida’s condo insurance industry

After Hurricane Michael tore through the Panhandle in 2018, for example, the office issued dozens of requests for detailed data to see how quickly insurers were paying claims. Frustrated homeowners and others accused insurers of dragging their feet on claims, and data the state collected showed that insurers still had yet to pay more than 21,000 claims nine months after the storm.

The partial collapse of the 13-story beachfront condominium on June 24 has spooked the state’s insurance industry. Older condos were already considered high-risk because of their hurricane exposure, their common ownership structure and reputation for delaying maintenance.

Within days of the collapse, insurance companies sent letters to owners of condominiums 40 years and older in South Florida, asking for proof that their buildings have passed all inspections or else run the risk of losing coverage.

On Tuesday, the head of Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run insurer that covers properties that aren’t covered by private insurers, warned that the fallout from the collapse could be “severe.”

President and chief executive officer Barry Gilway told a Citizens board that they should consider tightening the requirements before Citizens writes any condominium policies, such as requiring a “full structural integrity engineering report.”

Get insights into Florida politics

Get insights into Florida politics

Subscribe to our free Buzz newsletter

We’ll send you a rundown on local, state and national politics coverage every Thursday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

“There’s absolutely no question what’s going to happen,” Gilway said, saying he expects to see some private insurers pull out of the condo market. “There’s going to be a pretty significant upheaval to residential condominium business, and we have to be prepared as far as what our position’s going to be and how rigid our position’s going to be.”

The board on Tuesday also approved contracts with private companies to dramatically increase the number of inspections for Citizens-insured residential properties, from 1 percent of policies to 6 percent of policies.

“What is happening in Dade and Broward ... has impacts across the entire organization, without question,” Gilway said.