Home insurance is an ever-changing topic of conversation – sometimes positive and sometimes not so much. The last five years and the next five years to come have been and will be HUGE to the property insurance industry, thus impacting real estate drastically. Here is a recap of what we’ve seen and what we expect.
THE PAST FIVE YEARS:
- Litigation and fraud increased more than ever before, driving premiums up and causing at least 10 companies to go out of business or stop writing in Florida
- Underwriting guidelines became the most strict we’ve ever witnessed… roofs have to be as new as 7 years old with some companies and risks are scrutinized with extra inspections and requirements
- It is estimated that since 2017, the four storms that hit Florida (Irma, Michael, Ian and Nicole) cost over $160 billion with a net loss for Florida property insurers of $3 billion… causing insurance carriers to be unprofitable and reinsurers to question their risk appetite
- Homeowners are seeing rate increases of over 50%
- Policies, because they’re hard to come by, may be lacking coverage from what is typically recommended
THE NEXT FIVE YEARS:
- Citizens is no longer the “insurer of last resort” and is writing more business than ever, but will soon be requiring flood insurance on all policies, regardless of flood zone risk level
- The process of Assignment of Benefits (AOB) is no longer allowed for contractors to obtain rights to manage claims for the insured via a signed form
- One-way attorney fees are no longer permitted so the astronomical payouts from insurers will diminish significantly
- Two reinsurance funds were created in special session in 2022, which will help carriers still take on exposure
- We expect in the next 2-3 years, premiums will begin to level out and come down some… although rates will remain competitive since there aren’t as many carrier options, our hope is that they come down a reasonable amount
It’s been a while since there was “good” news in the property insurance world but all of these are steps in the right direction that we can all be excited about. The end goal is to make insurance available and affordable for all Florida homeowners again.
As if there isn’t enough going on with Florida home insurance these days, we are now upon hurricane season. NOAA forecasters have estimated there to be a 65% chance that this year will have “above average” activity, which would make it the seventh consecutive year of unwanted overachievements.
For the 2022 hurricane season, they have forecasted a range of 14 to 21 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become full blown hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher). This includes 3 to 6 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).
So what can you do? How can you best prepare and if in the process of a real estate transaction, avoid closing delays or lost deals? We can’t stress enough the importance of starting the insurance process early. This is helpful even outside of hurricane season because underwriting guidelines have tightened up and things can take time like inspections, appraisals, remedying any issues, etc. But the idea of starting early is more important than ever when it’s stormy season. If there is a named storm headed our way or posing as a threat to our area, insurance carriers will begin binding suspensions. This means that any policies in the quoting status cannot be bound… regardless of closing requirements.
Here are a few other quick tips to help you prepare:
- Trim trees and pick up any lawn debris
- Double check the “Other Structures” coverage on your homeowners policy
- Be sure you understand your hurricane deductible, it’s oftentimes different
- Purchase household items, food, and water for an emergency backup kit
- Be prepared to document and mitigate any damage
We are hopeful for an uneventful storm season so we can focus on the positive change we’re seeing with property insurance reform but if you need anything or have questions, we’re here… in all kinds of weather.
The property insurance reform bill that was under review in the Senate’s special session this week has passed! It received our Governor’s signature and is yet another step in the right direction to making home insurance available and affordable again.
More details on what this bill entails can be found here
but the following points are what we consider to be the most important:
- Reinsurance assistance for insurance carriers that results in reduced premiums for consumers
- Policies cannot be refused or non-renewed solely because the home’s roof is less than 15 years old, contingent on an inspection confirming that there are at least 5 years of life left on the roof
- Limitations on attorney fees and fee multipliers
- New roof deductible options
- More Office of Insurance Regulation guidelines to help prevent Florida-based carriers from financial instability or liquidation
- Roofs with less than 25% damage can be repaired, rather than requiring full replacement
- Steps to curb fraudulent roof claims and roofing contractor solicitation
- Grants and tax exemptions for wind mitigation efforts
This bill received its final stamp of approval from Governor DeSantis, who stated that this package is “the most significant reforms to Florida’s homeowners insurance market in a generation.”
We remain hopeful and excited for positive change. We are in this together and ultimately, want to keep homeownership as great of an experience as possible for all Floridians.
When the House session ended earlier this month without any progression for Senate Bill 1728, we were disappointed and discouraged. And we assume, if you’ve been following along, you were too. We were unsure if and when a special session would be called by the governor, or if we’d be forced to exercise all the patience we have left until next year.
But gratefully, we are excited to share that some good news was just released and it may be just the relief we’ve been asking for!
In a meeting of the Florida Cabinet earlier this week, it was revealed that the Office of Insurance Regulation will now allow property insurers to offer roof deductible endorsements as well as a schedule on what will be paid on roof replacements.
Similar roof deductible provisions were included in Senate Bill 1728, which passed the state Senate in the regular session but stalled in the House. However, Florida state statutes allow the OIR agency the authority to make regulatory change without the need of legislation. Thankfully, our home state’s insurance regulators are taking steps on their own to help cut the cost of roof claims.
One of the main improvements in this is that policyholders will have the option to choose their roof deductible up front and carriers will no longer be required to offer full replacement cost only. Currently, Florida appears to be the only U.S. state that requires full roof replacement when only 25% of the roof is damaged.
This change comes at a very opportunistic time for all of us as June 1 is when many carriers must renew their reinsurance, and prices are expected to increase dramatically.
This is potentially really good news for the real estate, mortgage lending and insurance industries. We don’t know for sure yet what change will come from this but it’s a step in the right direction of making home insurance available and affordable. We are hopeful.
Headaches are known to be caused by things like dehydration, malnutrition, stress or lack of sleep. But if we had to guess, home owners and those affiliated with the real estate industry have experienced a headache lately that can be blamed fully on the current state of home insurance. As much as we don’t like or agree with the challenges home owners are facing, we can provide a little insight as to why things are the way they are.
To put a quite complicated issue simply, it really boils down to three things:
Fraud – Roofing guidelines have gotten more and more strict and it’s in large part due to an unfortunate amount of claims filed unnecessarily for roof replacements. The involvement of roofers themselves, public adjusters and the misuse of the Assignment of Benefits tool have all contributed to an increase in claims that insurance companies have struggled to sustain through. Profitability and the ability to pay legitimate claims are down, making insurance companies unable to be there for consumers when they need them the most.
Litigation – Property claim payouts have been cited to be up to 4.5 times more when an attorney is involved. Over the past 9 years, approximately 71% of the billions of dollars paid out on property claims when to attorney fees. This one speaks for itself.
Reinsurance – Approximately 40-45 cents of every dollar of a homeowners insurance premium goes toward the cost of reinsurance. This is the insurance that insurance companies buy to protect themselves from overwhelming losses in larger claims and catastrophe situations. When insurer’s expenses are up this high, one of the only ways to compensate is to increase premiums.
It’s safe to say that everyone involved in the insurance, real estate and associated industries agrees that something has got to change. There are people unable to accomplish homeownership or being priced out of opportunities because of these issues. At this time, the reform bill that the Senate presented to the House has been postponed until either next session or a special session, should the Governor call for it. Therefore, there is little to no control over the situation other than hoping for legislative action to be taken sooner than later and spreading awareness to minimize fraudulent and litigious activity.
Hang in there, guys. You make think home insurance is quite a necessary evil at this point. And while the necessary part is true, it isn’t all evil… we’re actually here to help and advocate for home owners. We can get through this together.