May 28, 2024 - News

Florida's insurance market "more stable" ahead of 2024 hurricane season, experts say

The line chart shows the number of Citizens policies in force from April 2023 to April 2024. The chart shows a decline beginning in October 2023, due to a state law requiring homeowners to accept private insurance offers no more than 20% higher than their current policy.
Data: Citizens Property Insurance Corporation; Chart: Axios Visuals

Florida's insurance market is in a "much stronger place" ahead of this year's hurricane season, industry experts tell Axios.

Why it matters: The market, says Mark Friedlander with the Insurance Information Institute, is "well-prepared" to support claims should consumers see damage during what's expected to be an extraordinarily busy storm season.

Zoom in: The state Office of Insurance Regulation reports that at least eight insurance companies in Florida have filed for a rate decrease this year, and 10 have not requested an increase.

  • Meanwhile, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. (the bloated, state-backed insurer) saw a net drop of about 200,000 policies since October, when private insurers began to assume some.
  • All of which are signs of a "more stable market," says Friedlander, who credits the state's legislative reforms for thrusting more consumers out of Citizens and into the private market.

Yes, but: Florida homeowners are still on the hook for the nation's highest average premium, according to Insurify, a digital insurance agent and comparison platform.

Friction point: The outlook for this hurricane season is ominous, with between 17 to 25 named storms forecast. A large volume of losses this season could disrupt the positive momentum of Florida's insurance market.

  • Citizens held over 1.2 million policies as of April, with about 310,000 from Tampa Bay's homeowners and almost 400,000 from Miami's. It shed about 400,000 policies last year, but it added about 200,000 over the same period.
  • Friedlander tells Axios that the state-run insurer is "overexposed" and that an ideal number of policies would be around 400,000.

Context: Florida lawmakers created Citizens in 2002 as an insurer of last resort — a backstop when residents can't find coverage in the private market. Now, it is the state's largest property insurer.

  • Experts warned that its claims-paying funds could be exhausted if the state gets hit by a major hurricane. Florida law enables the state insurer to collect additional funds via an emergency surcharge on both Citizens and non-Citizens policyholders.

The bottom line: Florida's insurance market shows signs of improvement, but a major hurricane could erase that progress.

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