ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Just days ahead of the official start to hurricane season, insurance experts are urging Floridians to financially prepare, while issues with ongoing property insurance crisis continue to plague homeowners.
Scott Brownhill, like so many Floridians, works hard to pay his bills. He owns a car window tinting business in Pinellas County and has owned his home outright for six years. He’s seen firsthand how the cost of homeowners’ insurance is growing unaffordable.
“Last year they went from $300 to $600 a month,” Brownhill told 10 Tampa Bay.
His premium doubled, a change so drastic, his bank thought something was wrong. “My wife’s bank contacted her to see if it was fraudulent,” he added.
Scott says the company was going to drop him if he didn’t make several expensive changes to his home, including putting on a new roof, despite him getting repairs just a couple of years ago when he says he didn’t file any claims.
He’s paid off his mortgage and doesn’t plan on renewing his policy when it's up in August, instead opting to save the money he would be paying in a bank account for emergencies.
“We have decent credit, we own the land and worst-case scenario that we lost the house, we can build a new one,” he added.
He’s not alone when it comes to making tough decisions.
“It’s a very difficult situation, we understand it. Unfortunately, we’re not seeing any relief in the near future for Florida homeowners,” Mark Friedlander with the Insurance Information Institute said. “While there's been a lot of reforms put in place in recent months, passed by the state legislature, all very positive actions taken by the legislature, it takes time for those reforms to show positive trends in the marketplace."
In the meantime, the state-backed Citizens is approaching a record number of policyholders, which Friedlander says indicates people are having trouble simply finding coverage.
And costs will likely only go up from here. June 1 marks a reinsurance renewal period for many insurers, experts are anticipating spiking costs for companies that will then be handed down to consumers.
Friedlander says on average, premiums could increase by 40% next year.
“It's not an immediate change. But potentially, the cost of reinsurance could have an impact on how much Florida consumers pay for their home insurance policies,” he explained.
This is ahead of another hurricane season…and as we witnessed with the damage brought by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, it’s something Friedlander says everyone should financially prepare for.
“This is the ideal time to get an insurance checkup,” he said. “You have to look at your situation. Can you afford to replace your home? Could you go without insurance? Do you have enough money out of pocket to replace your home if it is destroyed by a hurricane? Most people are not in that position.
"That's why we think it's so important to be financially prepared for hurricane season and have the right types and right levels of coverage. And if it's an affordability issue, you might want to consider increasing your deductibles because, you have a standard deductible on your policy, as well as a windstorm deductible for named tropical systems."
Friedlander added, "You could adjust those, but just remember, the higher deductible, the more you'll need to pay out of pocket. Yes, if the higher deductible does lead to lower premiums, that's the good news. The bad news is you will be responsible to pay more out of pocket for the loss. So you kind of have to weigh the pros and cons of that,”
The Department of Financial Services has resources available for people looking to find home insurance coverage or get help with questions regarding their existing coverage. The hotline can be reached at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236).