Florida homeowners increasingly opting out of property insurance amid rising costs: Experts warn of risks

Author: Céline McArthur
Published: Updated:

With property insurance costs skyrocketing and coverage dwindling, you may wonder if it’s worth the money.

if you have a mortgage, you must have insurance, but more Floridians who own their homes opt to go without it.

WINK News investigative reporter Celine McArthur explores this trend to show you what impact it can have across Florida.

Block parties happen often on Miramar Street in Fort Myers Beach.

“We have a text chain of people on the street,” said Don Hunter. “I think there’s 17 folks on there and everybody’s invited, and there would be 17 responses,” said Don Hunter.

Don and his wife Leslie Hunter repurchased their bungalow in 2005.

Céline inquired, “What made you come down here?” Don chuckled in response, “The weather.”

Leslie shared, “The first time we came across that bridge, that was it. We saw the town and fell in love with it.”

The Hunters held property insurance for years but dropped it in 2018 as premiums skyrocketed.

“It got to the point where we thought, you know, if nothing happens for five years, we would break even. I mean, it was well over $12,000 a year,” Don explained.

After getting slammed by Hurricane Ian four years later, the Hunters admit dumping their insurance might not have been the best call.

Fortunately, the Hunters could dip into their savings to lift their bungalow and fix the damage, which will cost about $200,000. Once it’s done, they plan to pay for some insurance.

Don noted, “We’ll probably have wind insurance, but not flood.”

Mark Friedlander with the Insurance Information Institute, a trade association funded by insurance companies, warns the Hunters took a risk that would devastate most homeowners.

“It’s good to hear that certainly, it worked out very positively for that homeowner,” said Friedlander. “You may have saved funds for 20 years or so. That’s fabulous. But now, what if you get another storm in the next year or two? You don’t have 20 years to save. It’s just not a realistic picture.”

This sentiment is underscored by a new Bankrate survey, revealing that 56% of American adults lack the emergency funds to pay for a one-thousand-dollar expense.

Friedlander questioned, “How could they possibly think they could pay for a catastrophic loss of their home out of pocket?”

Stefan Contorno, Senior Vice President and Partner at Touchstone Wealth Partners UBS emphasizes the importance of asking yourself a critical question if you’re considering canceling your policy: “Should you be living in a home to begin with, right? If it is too expensive, you might want to rethink your situation.”

Public Adjuster Rod Buvens has worked in the insurance industry for decades and explains how the growing number of uninsured homeowners will impact the Florida market.

According to Buvens, “Even a 5% or a 10% movement is catastrophic for the market because we are in a pool together. We’re all grouped in, and the folks that pay higher premiums, generally the people that don’t have mortgages on their property, they’re all kind of subsidizing the people that have mortgages.”

Elaine and Michael Damiano’s home was badly damaged by Hurricane Ian 17 months ago, and their insurance claim remains unresolved.

“We’re still fighting,” Elaine declared. “We haven’t given up, and we’re not going to give up. We’re not going away.”

Despite their ongoing nightmare, the Damianos say they won’t give up their insurance coverage.

Elaine reflected on their situation, stating, “For what happened to our house in the 10 years, you would have to be able to save almost $400,000 to put the house back together…” Michael interjected, expressing his determination, “I’d rather fight them…” Elaine responded firmly, “No, you have to have insurance…” Michael concluded confidently, “and win.” Emphasizing his stance, Michael stated, “I believe in insurance for everything that’s insurable.”

Insurance experts recommend that if you’re looking to trim expenses while maintaining your coverage, you should contemplate opting for a higher deductible. While it means more money out of pocket initially, it can prove to be less costly in the long run compared to bearing the full financial burden on your own.

Have a story you want us to look into? Drop Céline a line at celine.mcarthur@winknews.com. We’re here to help!

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