Vanguard Insurance Dropping Policies; Property Insurer's Action Could Leave 8,600 without Coverage on First Coast

Article excerpt

Byline: URVAKSH KARKARIA

As state lawmakers perform legislative CPR on Florida's gravely ill property insurance market, yet another carrier is threatening to call it quits.

Vanguard Fire and Casualty Co., based in Maitland, has stopped accepting new applications for residential policies or renewing existing ones -- a move that would leave nearly 8,600 First Coast residents without homeowners coverage.

The company made the announcement in a letter to its insurance agents Tuesday. Vanguard could not be reached for comment seeking a detailed explanation for its actions.

In the letter, Vanguard said it anticipates the suspensions to be temporary. However, it "encouraged" agents "to seek other insuring options" for the affected policyholders.

Vanguard, which specializes in personal property lines of insurance for Florida residents, was created to provide Floridians with a new homeowners insurance source after many companies stopped underwriting policies following Hurricane Andrew in 1992, according to the insurer's Web site.

Last year, Vanguard filed for statewide average rate increases of 80.7 percent and 84.1 percent for two of its homeowners programs in Florida. State regulators are yet to rule on the rate request but in the past have rejected rate requests they felt were unjustified. In October, for instance, regulators snubbed Nationwide Insurance Co.'s request for a 71.4 percent statewide average hike in homeowners insurance.

Most homeowners insurance carriers writing new policies in Florida are niche players, created in the past few years, said Don Lohr, president of The Pinnacle Group in St. …