Insurer ordered to refund increase

$43 million must be returned to policy holders

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By By Harriet Johnson Brackey
Published  May 16, 2007


United Property & Casualty Insurance must return more than $43 million to policy holders, the state Office of Insurance Regulation said Friday.

The refunds or credits are a payback based on state regulators' decision that United Property & Casualty's proposed rate increases, submitted last year, were too high.

In September, United Property & Casualty proposed almost 90 percent increases in home and condo policy premiums. Under state law at that time, insurers were allowed to actually start charging higher premiums before state regulators reviewed their rate-increase requests. This practice has since been prohibited.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation later determined the rates were too high and approved a 55.3 percent increase statewide, with a 60 percent cap in the most expensive areas.

"We will continue to aggressively pursue all refunds and credit that are due to Florida consumers," Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said in a statement.

The state ordered the company to give back premiums it had already collected at the higher rate.

Regulators said they had not spelled out how the money will be returned to policy holders, other than it must at least be by the time each individual policy comes up for renewal. The company could choose to issue refunds sooner than that, a spokesman for the Office of Insurance Regulation said.

Calls to United Property & Casualty at its St. Petersburg headquarters were not returned.

More than half or 29,657 of United Property & Casualty's homeowner policies are for homes in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade County. Overall, it has 51,860 policies in force, according to state regulators.

The company signed a consent order with the state May 29, but the settlement was only made public Friday.