After learning the total premium to insure his home would double from a year ago, Karlos Horn was “flabbergasted.” Horn, a 35-year-old law student who owns a four-bedroom, single-family home in Hendry County, Fla., said his adjusted $200-per-month premium is equivalent to half his mortgage payment. Insurance companies that do business in Florida have been sending out notices to thousands of homeowners like Horn who are finding that their premiums will be rising dramatically or that their policies will not be renewed at all.
Becky Ghrist got her notice in May. The Rotunda West homeowner has searched for new insurance since but has found the cost to be prohibitive. Insurance agents have been taking thousands of calls each day from property owners like Ghrist, who cannot find coverage from a private provider. That is because Florida homeowners have seen their options dwindle. Last year, 56 Florida insurers posted a combined $ 1.6 billion in underwriting losses. The figure marks the industry’s fifth consecutive year of losses in the state and is more than two-and-a-half times what those companies lost in 2019.
Those costs, coupled with huge expenditures following hurricanes Katrina and Irma, forced many private insurers to flee what has been described as a “state of disarray.” Other insurers went out of business or were bought up by larger companies. Most, if not all, took significant steps to reduce exposures in areas that contribute to high litigation or reinsurance costs.
High Cost of Business
“Agents are struggling with very limited options in the admitted space because carriers are pulling back, whether it’s due to increased re-insurance costs or a change in their underwriting appetite” said Susan Relicke, Florida Regional Manager at Orchid Insurance, a specialty underwriter of catastrophe-exposed property insurance. “Many Florida domiciled carriers operated in the red last year. There is a general consensus that many carriers will need to pause and further evaluate how to write business in Florida”.
Today, about 60 small and mid-sized firms underwrite policies in Florida, the newest of which is TRUE — Trusted Resource Underwriters Exchange — a reciprocal insurance company created by Orchid Insurance and national property insurer Homesite to protect residential property owners in coastal states.
“We’re looking to bring a new AM Best Admitted carrier solution into the Florida insurance marketplace during a time it is needed the most” said Relicke.
By leveraging the scale and operational capabilities of both Orchid and Homesite, TRUE offers owner-occupied homeowner’s insurance, as well as bundled, optional coverages and a private flood solution, for medium-to-high-value homes. Orchid holds distribution rights to TRUE products, which are being offered to select agent partners, beginning in Florida before eventually expanding into catastrophe-exposed states in the Gulf, Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
TRUE’s entry into the Florida insurance market comes at a time of mounting frustration among agents who are on the frontlines trying to help their clients cope with rate increases, non-renewals, coverage restrictions from the admitted market. Sensing the seriousness of an untenable situation, lawmakers have begun to act. In June, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill aimed at encouraging more private sector involvement to give homeowners policies that are more affordable and that will “protect them from whatever mother nature throws are way.”
The Florida insurance reform legislation, which went into effect July 1, 2021, forbids contractors from soliciting homeowners to file roofing claims; narrows the time frame in which homeowners can file claims, from three years to two years; and enacts new rules on litigation. Legislators say insurance carriers are already showing a willingness to again invest and come into the state since the bill passed. Critics say the bill does not go far enough.
Are you looking for insurance options in hurricane-prone areas? TRUE offers competitive pricing, superior policy coverage and a unique ownership experience for insurance agents and their clients. To learn about agency partnerships, visit orchidinsurance.com.