As home insurance hikes multiply, calls for reform in Florida are growing

Article Courtesy of The Islander News

By Hillard Grossman

Published December 6, 2023


Four years ago, Alan Weger said he was paying less than $1,000 a year for homeowners coverage on his Florida West Coast villa that was built in 1984. His latest bill, which came last month, was $6,800.

"I don't know how much longer I can live here," said the retired teacher in a Facebook exchange.

He's not the only one seeing his insurance premium spike lately. This year alone, Florida property owners shuddered as the average policy rose 40% to a historic average of about $6,000 a year, almost four times the national average of $1,700, according to a CNN Business report.

So, what is the next step?

Last week, Congressman Maxwell Frost, a Democrat from Orlando, became the latest to demand that Gov. Ron DeSantis introduce measures to address the issue, adding to previous calls that have asked the governor to prioritize the state’s property insurance crisis over his presidential bid.

Frost's letter was written after he held a discussion with Central Florida homeowners and business leaders, as well as aspiring homeowners, who all shared their struggles as the state insurance premiums have gone up by 300% over the past five years.

“What I heard emphasized the harm directly caused to Floridians by your lack of leadership to properly regulate the insurance industry, mitigate the destruction of extreme weather events, and make informed legislative decisions to solve the problem," Frost wrote in his letter to the governor. "I request an urgent meeting to discuss my constituents' concerns and hear your plans for a solution to this crisis.”

Three bills were passed during the 2023 Legislative Session in the summer that would help protect homeowners and insurers. Still, ABC Action News learned from Florida's insurance commissioner, Michael Yaworsky, that there is usually an estimated two-year lag between legislative reform and a price break for residents.

But, help should be coming, said Alejandro Pérez Duque, who directs the PVG Insurance Group on Key Biscayne.

"Without getting political, under DeSantis, the insurance reform he did (introduce) through the Special Legislative Session (this year) will be beneficial to consumers, but it will take some time to cycle through, given the manipulation by attorneys and public adjusters," he said.

"The industry requires, for its health and stability, more restrictions on combating fraud by bad actors, and less restrictions on rate-setting. If carriers cannot price the risk adequately, they simply stop writing policies or exit the state."

Frost's letter to Gov. DeSantis might be the only way to sway any further reform since Republicans have a majority in the Florida Senate and House, and they get to decide what bills are introduced and voted on.

Last month, Senate Banking and Insurance Chairman Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said he doesn't see "any additional big-deal things that we can do" during the 2024 Legislative Session, which begins in January.

In the meantime, a little patience might pay off in the long run.

"We are at the peak of the hardest property insurance cycle in history for catastrophic coverages, such as hurricanes. And, like in prior peaks, when more carriers ultimately enter the market and this competition pressures rivals to loosen up, the consumer will benefit from having more choices and better pricing," Pérez Duque said.

"It’s just getting through the ‘storm’ that matters right now, and understanding that it is not sustainable and will come to an end eventually."