A few percent discount for fancy hurricane protections won’t help!


An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc. 

September 25, 2006


For the sake of Florida’s citizens many of us still hope that the Florida Property and Casualty Insurance Reform Committee doesn’t fit the profile of the classic definition of a committee: “A group of the inept appointed by the unwilling to do the unnecessary.”


The question all of us owners are asking is very simple. It was already asked by St. Petersburg Times reporter, Tom Zuccho, in his article published on September 18, 2006: Who's looking out for us?”


As explained in that article, the committee is comprised of politicians with ties to the insurance industry, so-called experts, and business leaders!  Actual homeowners who are committee members? ZERO!


Let’s face it: The people, who are paying the price – some by losing their homes – are not represented on this committee. And public input? Considering the attitude of the committee members: As Little As Possible! Who cares what the tax-paying citizen wants?


I don’t think there is any doubt that the owners in the so-called Tri-County Area (Miami/Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties) have been hit hardest by the outrageous increases of property insurance premiums. But the committee paid a token visit to Miami last Thursday, and then changed public input from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. instead of the pre-announced time of 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.


Let’s make it very clear: By September 13, 2006, the committee still had no official website. More than two months after its creation by Governor Bush and after holding three meetings, the committee still had not published its agenda for the Miami meeting. I finally called the Governor’s office and got a telephone number to call. I explained the lack of information and agenda in regard to the Miami meeting. A nice lady told me that there is a website “in the making,” but then she told me that public input for the Miami meeting was planned for the afternoon, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.  As advised to do, I called again the next morning to confirm and got the same information.


But when owners showed up to make their presentations at 1 p.m. they were told: “Sorry, too late! We changed times and public input was only from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.” People came from as far as Palm Beach County, only to be told: “Sorry, too late!”

Even if there was a communication problem, common courtesy should have caused the committee members to reconsider and NOT change the time for the input.  Aren’t these folks who wish to make a presentation
the taxpayers paying for these meetings?  


It seems obvious that common courtesy has no more room in our society – and that the interest of the tax-paying citizens is left behind in the wake of profits.


In the meanwhile the Florida Property and Casualty Insurance Reform Committee has a website:

But suspiciously missing: Any contact information or e-mail addresses. Looks like the members don’t want to be bothered by Joe or Jane Homeowner!  


From the discussion so far, it seems that the committee is more interested in telling the owners how to improve their homes than finding real solutions. What’s the idea? Telling a homeowner, whose premium just doubled from $3,000 to $6,000 that he would get a 10% discount if he installs hurricane shutters for $12,000?


I will give you a really good example: My home was built in 2005 –using all the latest building codes here in Volusia County – far away from beaches. Actually, we even added some capital improvements to the building to protect it even better than required by code. Guess what!

This is supposed to be a cartoon, but it's the sad truth!

When I received my insurance renewal notice this summer, the premium had nearly doubled! So much for discounts!


Folks, if you haven’t realized it yet: WAKE UP! Property insurance premiums and property taxes are destroying our finances, families are losing their homes and many retirees are forced to move back up North, where they can still afford the cost of living! 


But many owners quickly discover another serious problem when they try to sell their former retirement “dream home.”  The real estate market has dried up.  It’s a buyer’s market now and the real estate prices are going down even faster than the insurance premiums are going up!  Word gets around – and who wants to buy a house or condo in Florida where the daily headlines in the media grumble about the problems with property insurance, property taxes and association lawsuits?


We owners need real changes with reasonable premiums, premiums we can afford! And if the insurance industry can’t supply these kind of policies, a “socialized” insurance company run by the state has to be established, but providing insurance for all risks, not only the bad risks the insurance companies don’t like! Despite the huge losses they claimed from the hurricanes, insurance companies paid out record amounts to their shareholders! And we owners paid the price!


For us citizens the time has come to take a stand: ALL OR NOTHING! Insurance companies need to know: If you don’t want to underwrite our bad risks, please don’t offer anything else! And for the big condo associations we should look into creating a secure way of self-insuring! (Enforced by strict government regulation, of course.)  Here in Florida we already see enough scam artists, who fleece the widely unprotected citizens.


There is no more time for fun and games: When people are losing their homes, it’s time to do something about it! When we followed the discussions of the Destination Florida Commission, we could still laugh and joke about it. We had fun quoting: “Anybody who makes the decision to create a commission sounds a lot like what Congress routinely does to make a hot issue go away -- appoint a commission to study the problem to death and then ignore its recommendations.


Maybe we should now form a commission called “Destination North – Where property insurance and taxes are still affordable”?  Because up North we can still find many places with an affordable cost of living, reasonable insurance premiums, equitable property taxes for our homes -- and pleasant communities without mandatory associations. Here in Florida we are being priced out of our homes – but so far our elected government officials are not looking out for us!


"We The People" need to look out for ourselves and make sure that our elected officials know:


Property Insurance Premiums and Property Taxes are killing us!