Ignoring your mail could be very costly for more than 19,000 homeowners in Polk County who are insured through state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
In an effort to reduce its number of policies, the company’s Depopulation Unit sent letters to more than 300,000 Florida homeowners over the past few weeks with coverage offers from private insurers.
“Great news! You have received an offer of property insurance coverage from one or more private-market insurance companies. As Florida’s insurer of last resort, Citizens’ mission is to help you find insurance with a private market insurer,” the letter reads.
Why it matters
- Citizens policyholders who don’t reply by Oct. 10 may be switched to private insurers, even if it costs thousands of dollars more.
- You may opt out if the cost of private coverage is more than 20% higher than what you’re paying Citizens.
- To opt out, go to https://www.citizensfla.com/online-choice. You will need your policy number and the registration code on the letter that was mailed to you.
- Can’t find the letter? Call your agent.
Most of the letters, which arrived in plain-looking white envelopes, list a deadline of Oct. 5. But because there were glitches with the vendor that printed them and many batches were delayed, Citizens extended the deadline for all recipients to Oct. 10. (A LkldNow staffer’s letter was dated Aug. 28 but postmarked Sept. 17.)
That means policyholders have until midnight tomorrow to accept or decline the takeout offers.
If the cost of private coverage is within 20% of the Citizens premium, homeowners are “ineligible to renew” and have no choice but to leave Florida’s so-called insurer of last resort.
If the private rate is more than 20% higher, policyholders may choose to remain with Citizens, but the clock is ticking. Homeowners must opt out by midnight Oct. 10 or they will be transferred automatically — even if the private rate is thousands of dollars higher than what they are paying now.
“Citizens will select an offer on your behalf if you do not register your choice [by the deadline],” the letter says.
There are two ways to opt out: Policyholders can go to https://www.citizensfla.com/online-choice and enter the policy number and registration code from the offer letter. Or if they can’t find the letter, homeowners can call the insurance agent listed on their policy documents.
Citizens’ depopulation effort is a response to the skyrocketing growth in policies. Statewide, the number of Citizens policies has ballooned to 1.38 million, more than triple its total from three years ago. In Polk County, the number of policies has jumped almost ten-fold from 2,040 at the start of 2020 to 19,066 last month.
The surge has been driven by an exodus of private carriers over the past two years. Rampant fraud and natural disasters bankrupted some — with seven companies being declared insolvent over the past two years. Others fled the state to reduce their risk exposure.
In July, Farmers Insurance announced it would no longer offer coverage in Florida, becoming the 15th company to stop insuring homes in the state in the past two years. Last week, Progressive Insurance announced it was “pulling back” and dropping roughly 115,000 home policies.
Many Lakeland homeowners have found that increasingly tight underwriting guidelines have left them with no alternatives beside Citizens to insure their properties, particularly older homes.
However, legislation passed in December aimed at stabilizing the insurance market may be starting to have an effect. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law after an emergency special session that created a $1 billion reinsurance fund and put disincentives in place to prevent frivolous lawsuits.
Citizens’ effort to offload policies was made possible because new companies were willing to step in and take them over. The companies approved by the state Office of Insurance Regulation to buy the policies are:
In the letter and on its website, Citizens said there will be more rounds of depopulation. “At policy renewal, your risk may be entered into Citizens’ Property Insurance Clearinghouse to determine whether private-market coverage is available that could make you ineligible to remain a Citizens policyholder,” the letter states.
Clinton Mora is a reporter for Trending Insurance News. He has previously worked for the Forbes. As a contributor to Trending Insurance News, Clinton covers emerging a wide range of property and casualty insurance related stories.