Homeowners voice concerns over windstorm insurance

While Monroe County got good news, nearly 200 disgruntled residents turned out for a community meeting in Broward County to call on politicians to lower rates.

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

Published  August 18, 2006

The numbers say it all.

Last year, homeowners in Lauderhill's Falls of Inverrary paid $274,000 to insure the 13 buildings in their condominium development. This year, the condo's premium jumped to $834,000.

''What's amazing is [insurance companies] got away with it!'' said Adam Fleisher, one of the condo association's board members. ``It's going to kill everyone in the complex.''

Associations ''just plain don't have the money,'' added John Casalino, the president of the condo group.

Their only consolation Thursday night? They were not alone.

Nearly 200 people turned out for a meeting of the Inverrary Association, the umbrella condo organization for the various developments in the Lauderhill community.

Several Democratic state lawmakers presented insurance ideas that they said had been ignored in the Republican-dominated state Legislature.

But mostly, the event served as an opportunity for homeowners to vent about the costs they're now shouldering.

''Who is going to buy homes here with insurance rates of $8,000 and $9,000 a year?'' said Lynn Katz of Coral Springs, whose mother, Rose Ernstein, lives in Inverrary. ``We may all leave and let the last person shut off the lights.''


Joel Leshinsky, who helped organized the event with state Rep. Matt Meadows, said his goal was to fire up the crowd enough so that they'll be inspired to write to lawmakers and the governor -- or anyone else who can help them lower premiums.

''We put this together with empty pockets, because that's what's going to happen if we don't do something,'' Leshinsky said. ``When did price-gouging and the raping of the public become legal in Florida?''

The politicians at the event were mostly Democrats, and the central part of Broward County they represent is one of the most heavily Democratic areas of the state.

Republicans are also planning a similar forum at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Coral Gables High School Auditorium.

State Rep. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, the incoming House Democratic leader, told the crowd that he could put himself in their shoes. His windstorm premium, set at about $400 a decade ago, is now $9,000. It's set to jump to $16,000, Gelber said.

'It's easy to say, `I feel your pain,' because I feel your pain,'' Gelber said. ``I get calls all day long from people. They come to my office in tears.''

But it's an issue that crosses party lines. Insurance rates have surfaced as the biggest pocketbook issue in this year's campaign season, as home and business owners struggle to pay premiums and cope with rising gas prices and property taxes.


Gov. Jeb Bush has appointed a Property and Casualty Insurance Reform Committee that is supposed to come up with recommendations by November.

But until then, there are a few things that people can do, said Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan.

''Write, call, do everything in your power,'' Kaplan said. ``And vote. That's the most important thing you can do.''