Florida Keys News
Friday, June 27, 2014
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Wind rates up 8 percent
Rates go to state office this summer

Property owners in Monroe County could see increases of nearly 8 percent for insurance rates covering wind damage, while rates in other sections of the state could decrease.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is proposing a 7.9 percent hike in windstorm coverage for single-family homes in the Florida Keys, according to rate proposals recommended on Wednesday. More than 12,000 Keys homeowners have their windstorm insurance coverage through Citizens, according to company statistics.

By comparison, Broward County could see a 5.3 percent increase, but Miami-Dade would experience a 0.1 percent decrease for wind-only coverage, according to Citizens.

The rates will go before the Office of Insurance Regulation later this summer, Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier said.

For multiperil coverage against theft, wind and fire, Monroe County is facing a 2.6 percent increase for the little more than 300 homes in the Keys that have this coverage. However, Citizens is proposing a 4.3 percent reduction for Miami-Dade homeowners, and 7.4 percent reduction in Broward County.

Monroe County condominium owners are facing a 7.3 increase for windstorm coverage. By comparison, Miami-Dade condo owners could be hit with a 5.5 increase, and Broward condo owners are facing a 6.8 increase.

For multiperil coverage of condos, Monroe County is facing a 1.4 percent increase, Miami-Dade could be hit with a 6.4 increase, and Broward is looking at a 3.2 increase.

"I don't believe the models are accurate, so therefore, I don't believe the increases are warranted," said Annalise Mannix, project Engineer with the Keys-based watchdog group FIRM (Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe).

Peltier admitted that the "wind-only rates continue to be the least actuarially sound, which will impact Monroe County because of the number of wind-only policies throughout the county."

While the proposed increases for Monroe County are sizable, they are down from the roughly 10 percent annual increases that Keys property owners have absorbed for the past five years. The state has capped Citizens' annual increases at 10 percent.

Mannix credits FIRM's constant lobbying and research with helping to lower this year's proposed rates. FIRM has brought several issues to Citizens' attention, including better definitions for wind resistant and semiwind resistant, Mannix said.

"The work that FIRM is doing is making a difference," Mannix said.

The continued rate hikes and questionable data used as a basis for those hikes are behind FIRM's efforts to conduct its own insurance studies, board member and County Commissioner Heather Carruthers said.

Officials with FIRM are asking Florida Keys residents to open their homes to engineers so that crucial data on the strength of Monroe County buildings can be collected. The inspections are part of a $485,000 study the insurance watchdog group is conducting to help fight the rising windstorm insurance rates by Citizens.

The study is designed to show that the county's strict building code requirements have resulted in structures that are stronger than in other parts of the state, and thus represent less of a risk for insurance providers.

The study, which was paid for by Citizens, could be used to lure a private company to insure the Keys, or it could convince Citizens to reduce or cap its rates.

The data will identify characteristics that show a structure can withstand hurricane-force winds; calculate damage attributable to storm surge; estimate the exposure in the Keys; and evaluate alternatives for insuring Monroe County's windstorm risk.

Calculating the damage and gathering the information will require engineers to inspect 700 Keys homes. So far, about 100 homes have been inspected.

People who want to participate in the study can go to firmkeys.org for information.

tohara@keysnews.com

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