The board of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. voted Wednesday to slow down another rate hike landing on a storm-battered state, moving to defer action until December on a proposed statewide premium increase of about 8 percent that would have taken effect Feb. 1.
Citizens board chairman Chris Gardner called it a “consumer-friendly action” following “the devastation brought on by Irma.”
That does not mean the rate hike is going away, just that it might take effect later. Premium increases in 2018 took effect May 1, in order to ease the impact after Hurricane Irma.
The plan would increase Palm Beach County homeowners’ rates 7.7 percent to an average of $3,052.
That sits above a proposed statewide average premium of $2,808 and would represent the fourth highest premium in the state after Monroe ($3,966), Miami-Dade ($3,945) and Broward ($3,294) counties for standard home policies.
Once approved by the Citizens board, the plan goes for review to Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation.
The Citizens actuarial committee voted Tuesday to ask the full board to consider delaying the request.
“Florida is still in an ongoing emergency, really, recovering,” said committee member Bette Brown, who lives in Monroe County, which suffered heavy damage.
Hurricane Irma last year generated close to $10 billion in claims for Citizens and other insurers, but a Citizens statement highlighted “the impact of skyrocketing non-weather-related water loss claims in South Florida.” That’s a reference to roof problems, plumbing leaks and other claims that do not come directly from specific weather events. Citizens maintains such claims are often abusively inflated by contractors, public adjusters and attorneys, though representatives of those groups have accused Citizens of denying or underpaying claims.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis applauded the delayed increase on Wednesday.
“Passing along a costly burden to policyholders while many are still recovering from an active hurricane season is not a solution,” Patronis said in a statement. He said he would continue work on proposals to address problems with abusive water claims in the meantime.
Citizens had more than 40,000 customers in Palm Beach County at the start of April, state records show.
Martin County would wind up with an average premium about the same as Palm Beach County after a proposed 7 percent hike, according to company projections. St. Lucie’s average premium would rise 8.9 percent to $1,917.
The overall statewide increase for a standard single-family home policy, known as an H03, would be more than 8 percent.
Combining multi-peril homeowners coverage with condo and renters’ policies, the average requested boost would be 7.9 percent across Florida, according to Citizens.
Coverage exclusively for windstorm damage would cost 8.9 percent more in Palm Beach County to reach an average of $3,112, topping an average statewide rise of 7.9 percent to $2.865.
Citizens had about 443,000 customers as of May, down from about 1.5 million in 2012 as private insurers have taken over more than 1 million policies in the interim.
News Service of Florida contributed to this report.