COMPANY PROFILE: CITIZENS PROPERTY INSURANCE; the Last Resort for Hurricane Victims State-Run Carrier Available Only to Residents Who Can't Find Coverage in Private Market

Article excerpt


Hurricane season is off the blocks with Tropical Storm Arlene barreling toward the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, many First Coast residents find themselves without private insurance, abandoned by carriers who took a financial walloping from last year's four Florida hurricanes.

For those people in high-risk areas who can't find an insurance carrier to cover them, there is an option -- albeit an expensive one.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp., a state-run company, is the property insurer of last resort. Available only to residents who can't find coverage in the private market, the company insures more than 800,000 Floridians, spokesman Justin Glover said.

As of December, Citizens had written more than 12,600 policies in the Jacksonville area, up about 30 percent, from the over 9,700 policies in December 2003. And with this season expected to be busier than the last it is no surprise that the carrier had already written more than 11,800 policies as of April.

Citizens was created in 2002 after the Florida legislature passed a law that combined the Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association and the Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association. The two entities had similar missions and the combination was to more efficiently provide homeowners insurance to Floridians who could not get it in the private market.

Citizens is among the most expensive insurers -- it is required to charges the highest rates in each county, Glover said.

And while Citizens insures the riskiest customers, it holds a legislative trump card that helps keep it in business.

Florida law requires Citizens to impose an assessment on private insurance companies if it has a financial shortfall resulting from hurricane claims, Glover said. That assessed amount is based on each carrier's marketshare, he said.

Citizens tallied a $516 million deficit last year, but its board of governors has postponed a vote on levying an assessment until the new board takes over in August.

The ability to levy the assessment "guarantees that all claims will be paid," said Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Tallahassee-based Florida Insurance Council. …


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