'We do not have insurance. We have an insurance bill': Condos hit
with 563% rate increase
Article Courtesy of The Daytona Beach News-Journal
By Mark Harper
December 13, 2023
DAYTONA BEACH SHORES – Tom Baker
lives in a retirement dream building: A spacious three-bedroom beachside
condo with unobstructed morning sunrises, waves marking the time and the
soft sand of comfort.
The retired Marine and Army veteran and his wife Joan moved here from
the Tampa Bay area. She had a Daytona Beach timeshare they regularly
visited. Ten years ago they moved to their retirement home: a
fourth-story condo on the Atlantic Ocean.
“I absolutely love Daytona Beach,” he said. “I absolutely love where I
live, and I love this building.”
Daytona Beach Shores condo owner Tom
Baker sent a six-page memo to all of Florida's senators and
representatives, seeking help to rein in property insurance
costs. He said one of the 160 legislators, Sen. Jason Pizzo,
D-Sunny Isles Beach, responded to him.
So why does he seem so angry? Two words: Property insurance.
For Baker and many other Florida condo owners, the very
concept of insurance - to ease worries during times of
distress - seems lost, especially after the 2021 collapse of
the Champlain Towers South in Surfside and the two-punch
combo of the 2022 hurricane season: Ian and Nicole.
The latter storms just over a year ago pounded a seawall
outside the Marbella Condominiums, then destroyed a pool and
deck area. And the Surfside disaster, which killed 98
people, shined a light on structural safety, delayed
maintenance and the need for the state to enact more strict
regulations to prevent future collapses.
As bad as all of that was, for Baker, the real disaster
arrived in December 2022: the property insurance bill for
Marbella, where he serves on the condo association’s board.
For the 24-unit building at 3343 S. Atlantic Ave., property
insurance jumped from $40,534 for 2022 to nearly $269,000 –
a 563% increase. And Rob Lasch, another Marbella board
member, said he’s expecting another increase when the policy
offer arrives, which could be any day now.
And the increase came in spite of a
history of Marbella, which was built in 2007, never having
filed a claim, Lasch and Baker said. There was no claim
filed for the $2 million damage on the condo’s ocean-facing
“Nothing got paid out for the damage outside because it was
the seawall, and nobody was insuring the seawalls,” Lasch
So Marbella residents are getting hit
hard on both sides of the hurricane. They’re having to come
up with the full amount to fix the damage, while also
bearing the burden of increased rates.
Marbella Condominiums Association board members (from
left) Tom Baker, Jim Smith and Rob Lasch stand outside their
beachside home, where property insurance has increased more than
500% since two hurricanes caused damage to the structure's back
patio and pool in 2022."
Baker said his wife wants to move, leaving him to
contemplate simply not buying property insurance for the building –
something his fellow board members don’t support because it violates
Florida law and would leave the board members personally exposed to
“In a minute, I wouldn’t pay another dime in property
insurance, because it is illegal, it is immoral, and it’s wrong. You
can’t justify this payment. This is out-and-out stealing. Theft,” he
said. “And excuse me for being passionate. I am pissed.”
Other condo owners also see exponential rate hikes
Marbella isn’t alone. Many condo associations across the state have said
they, too, have faced astronomical property insurance rate hikes.
Right next door, at 3333 S. Atlantic Ave., the 109-unit Grand Coquina
Condo, went from paying $207,000 for property insurance in 2022 to
$680,000 for 2023, a 228% increase, said Jeff Sussman, the association’s
That amounted to a $2,331 additional assessment per unit this year,
while Sussman projects another assessment of between $3,000 and $6,000
per unit will be required in 2024.
The Grand Coquina Condominiums, 3333 S. Atlantic Ave., in Daytona Beach
Shores, saw a 228% increase in property insurance rates in 2023, despite
the fact that its insurer denied a water damage claim. The condo
association is fighting that determination.
Grand Coquina filed a claim seeking reimbursement for water damage its
board members contend was caused by wind during the storms. The claim
was denied, said Marro Porcelli, president of the Grand Coquina Condo
Grand Coquina hired an attorney and a structural engineer to challenge
the denial. Board members expect they will receive a settlement offer.
“There’s a lot of fight left in us,” Porcelli said. “We’re not giving in
to the criminals.”
Marbella is relatively new, built 15 years ago under strict building
codes. As a result, it stands on 42 pylons that are 40 feet long and
reach down to the hard core beneath the sand, Smith said.
In other words, residents there are confident if the building itself
could withstand Ian and Nicole, it's unlikely to crumble anytime soon.
And Smith said the deductible for any disaster is $1 million.
That leads Baker to question what the insurance is actually covering.
'We don't have insurance. We have an insurance bill'
“If a tornado came across this building and ripped the roof completely
off, our deductible is more than the repair. If an atomic bomb goes off
downtown, and blows this building down, we don’t collect because of the
war clause," Baker said.
The Marbella Condominium Association, 3343 S. Atlantic Ave., in Daytona
Beach Shores, was hit with a huge insurance increase last year and faces
another increase, even while property insurance did not cover some $2
million in damage caused by Tropical Storms Ian and Nicole.
"There is no way this building can collect," he said. "This is a
concrete building with sprinklers. You couldn’t burn the damn thing down
if you built a bonfire inside. We do not have insurance. We have an
Baker has written to all 160 state lawmakers as well as 15 news
organizations about the plight of condo owners. He went to Tallahassee
during this year's session.
“I learned something a long time ago in the military," he said. "If you
make a complaint, have a suggestion on how to fix it, OK?”
He's proposed dropping the requirement that condos purchase insurance.
And he's also talked about condos finding a way to self-insure.
Mostly, Baker said his pleas have been ignored.
Baker met with Rep. Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach, who was receptive to at
least one of his ideas. The office of Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Sunny Isle
Beach, responded to a packet of information Baker mailed to all
lawmakers. But otherwise, he's heard nothing.
Baker said he's most disappointed in Sen. Tom Wright, R-New Smyrna
Beach, who represents Daytona Beach Shores.
"For one year, I’ve been trying to get an appointment with Sen. Wright,"
Baker said. "I even went to his office. He walked right past me. He
didn’t extend me the courtesy of shaking my hand."
Wright did not respond to a request for comment.
Leek, whose district includes Daytona Beach Shores, likes at least one
of Baker's ideas.
Self-insuring, a good idea?
"We are actively finding ways to help the Florida consumer, and allowing
condominium associations to self-insure is a good idea. In fact,
measures that increase competition in the insurance market and drive
more carriers into Florida will benefit consumers," he wrote.
Mark Friedlander, Florida spokesman for the Insurance Information
Institute, said Florida has long had a complicated relationship with
property insurance, and it got more challenging with the Surfside
collapse and the hurricanes of 2022.
Many of the insurers that offer condo coverage started to pull back from
the Florida market due to increased risk at the older coastal
properties, Friedlander said in an email.
“The insurers that remained enhanced their underwriting criteria. This
began the trend of significant premium increases for master association
coverage,” he said. “Insured losses incurred from substantial property
damage generated by hurricanes Ian and Nicole last year further impacted
the availability and cost of master condo insurance,” Friedlander wrote.
In addition to "master policy costs" shared among all condo unit owners,
individual condo owners living in high-risk properties are seeing their
condo unit policy premiums increase substantially - 50% to 100% on
average, he added.
Over the past two years, the Florida Legislature has passed a flurry of
changes with the goal of resolving the property insurance crisis, so far
to no avail.
Some of those measures include tweaking regulations related to Citizens
Property Insurance Corp, the state-run insurer of last resort,
authorizing actions to be taken by the Florida Office of Insurance
Regulation, and cracking down on bad-faith claims.
In an early November special session, lawmakers allocated $181.5 million
to the My Safe Florida Home Program, which provides homeowners a
wind-mitigation survey and grant funds to make homes more sturdy.
Leek said he's confident that what lawmakers have been doing has been
done is working.
Rep. Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach, spoke during a Volusia County Legislative
Delegation meeting in DeLand in October. Leek, the House budget chair,
says lawmakers are working to resolve Florida's property insurance
"The Legislature's insurance reforms are taking hold," Leek wrote in
response to questions. "New carriers are entering the Florida insurance
market for the first time in years. Just this month, a new carrier
entered the Florida condo association insurance market.
"It's happening and it does take time, and we will continue to work to
provide a climate of competition and choice," he wrote.
Friedlander also referenced the new carrier as a positive sign: “Last
week, Florida's insurance regulator announced that a new insurer, the
Condo Owners Reciprocal Exchange, will be entering the state's market in
2024 and provide master condo policy coverage to associations. We hope
this will be a first step toward stabilizing the market for this
Condo owners socked with $64,000 in assessments
As a result of both sides of the property insurance problem – high rates
and being awarded no claims for the damage, Marbella condo owners have
each paid approximately $64,000 in HOA fees and assessments in 2023,
said board President Jim Smith.
Tom Baker, a member of the Marbella Condominium Association Board, has
been writing lawmakers, trying to get them to help stop property
insurance rates from skyrocketing.
Baker acknowledges beachside condo owners – particularly those who have
thus far been able to absorb the high insurance bills and the
assessments to pay for damages – probably don't attract much sympathy in
“Now us rich son-of-a-bitches, pardon me, we can manage somehow and get
away with it,” he said.
But other condo owners have had their retirement dreams dashed, moving
because of the high costs, while an exodus awaits if the problem isn’t
contained, association board members say.
They appreciate what Baker has done to raise awareness of the problem.
"He's taken this on, and he's very passionate about it," said Jim Smith,
the Marbella Condo Association Board president.
Baker said: “People who moved down here on fixed incomes and bought
themselves their final place now find themselves with an impossible