How a special session on property insurance helps Southwest Florida

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A home in Southwest Florida. Credit: WINK News

Homeowners being squeezed by insurance premiums right before hurricane season hope Monday will be the start of relief, as state lawmakers go into a special session focused on property insurance.

Gov. Ron DeSantis says his goal is to make changes to the Florida building code in order to make property insurance more affordable to residents, which is why he called the special session which will go on for most of this week. Peter Bergerson, a political science professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, says a special session like this is usually only called when the state is going through a crisis. While changes to property insurance are expected to happen, Bergerson says it will be a while until people see the impact.

“Now, I’d have to pay up over $4,000 a year,” Littell said. “And that’s the average of what it’s been, over $4,000. Now, for insurance, it’s just going to be too much.”

“It’s been an issue that’s lingered for the past two or three legislations, and it’s such a complicated and detailed issue that it was a regular session, which is 60 days, [and] it didn’t have time to work out all of the compromises and the agreements,” Bergerson said.

“It’s just getting to be too much,” Littell said. “To the point where, you know, I mean, we’re on a fixed income, some of us down here. And where’s that money gonna come from, with insurance? My particular house, I’ve lived there for a few years, and we’ve not had any problems. It’s been through some hurricanes, and we’ve not had any damages. But, all of a sudden, they decide they going to cancel.”

Cape Coral resident Anna Richeimer shared a few thoughts. “It makes me feel like they are calling my house not good because of the roof.”

Richeimer knows it’s old by insurance standards, 30 years, but she just renewed her policy with no problem last month. Not long after her insurance agent called to say she got dropped. Now she has until the end of May to find new coverage. Her only option is Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state-backed insurer of last resort.

“It’s been very stressful and to me a little bit sad because no matter what citizens says, what the premium is. we have to accept it because there is no other option to us,” Richeimer says.

Natural disasters, fraud, and lawsuits have caused Florida insurers to lose a lot of money and others to jump ship. It’s also why you might see your rates shoot up.

Mark Friedlander with the insurance information institute says these bills don’t do much to address the fraud or the lawsuits.

“It’s a first step,” Friendlander says. “But a lot more needs to be done a lot more needs to be addressed that maybe is completely ignored, or not addressed in a way that’s going to be beneficial.”

Because one bad storm and every Floridian will pay for it. Meanwhile, Richeimer is glad she at least has citizens but hopes our lawmakers figure something out for everyone down the road.

“We can’t handle that. The middle class can’t handle so many pressures coming from every direction,” Richeimer says.

That doesn’t help people like William Littell, a Naples resident who has been looking for affordable property insurance for months.

Property insurance companies say if you get quoted and it seems high, check and see what your coverage includes and get quotes from multiple other companies.

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