Monday, August 1, 2011

Will you be sunk by costly increases in sinkhole coverage?

Last week, Citizens’ Board of Governors approved a massive rate increase (made possible by SB 408) for optional sinkhole coverage, including rate hikes of more than 2,000% in some Tampa-Bay areas. Now, the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) must hold public hearings and vote on the proposed rates.

OIR will post the scheduled hearing date on its website: http://www.floir.com.

Insurance is about spreading risk across large numbers and those that are in higher risk areas should pay higher premiums than those that do not, but hitting some with 400%+ increase in one year seems harsh. Was any real thought given to at least spreading the impact over a few years? Certainly, this is a tough situation that will generate heated debate depending on your perspective because Citizens has suffered huge sinkhole losses. Last year Citizens took in $32 million in sinkhole premiums and paid out an estimated $245 million in claims.

For a good article on the topic see this article from Bloomberg: www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9OO7TA80.htm

How many folks who bought homes in high-risk sinkhole zones years ago (e.g. Escambia , Hernando, Pasco, Pinnellas and Hillsborogh Counties) do you think had any idea that their property was in an area prone to sinkhole issues? How many other sinkhole-prone areas in Florida have yet to be discovered.

While there are Florida and County maps of sinkhole events that have occurred, there is currently no sinkhole risk map analogous to the flood zone map developed for flood insurance; perhaps there should be? Unlike buying property on the coast, it is not always obvious when you are buying in an area that might soon require you to carry this kind of coverage.

Statewide:
http://fcit.usf.edu/florida/maps/pages/11100/f11165/f11165.htm

By County:
http://fcit.usf.edu/florida/maps/galleries/sinkholes/index.php

Moreover, here is what OIR has posted in terms of sinkhole information:

www.floir.com/sections/pandc/sinkholepage.aspx

Some legislators are encouraging OIR to deny the proposed rate increase; others, like Senator Mike Fasano, are in favor of getting rid altogether of this new law that permits large rate hikes in either a Special Session or during the regular 2012 Legislative Session.

You can email your comments to OIR at ratehearings@floir.com - be sure to include "Citizens" in the subject line.

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