- Citizens Property Insurance Corporation is aiming to depopulate nearly 200,000 policy lines by the end of October through its Depopulation Program, which allows private insurance companies in Florida to assume policies currently held by Citizens.
- The Office of Insurance Regulation has already approved 91,000 policies for assumption in 2023, with an additional 184,000 policies requested for October.
- Concerns have arisen over the rapid growth of Citizens, which has become the largest property insurer in Florida.
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation is working to depopulate by nearly 200,000 policy lines by the end of October, according to an industry notice issued by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR).
The effort comes as part of the Citizens Depopulation Program, which was created by the Florida Legislature in order to reduce the number of policies facilitated by the state-run insurer. Per the notice, the OIR has already approved 91,000 policies through the first half of 2023 and reports an additional 184,000 policies requested for the October assumption date.
The program ostensibly allows insurance companies operating within the state of Florida, both new and existing, to assume policies currently held by Citizens. Last month, state regulators approved proposals by Slide Insurance Co. to take as many as 25,000 policies from Citizens and Loggerhead Reciprocal Interinsurance Exchange to take as many as 1,000 policies.
“OIR is seeing greater participation and interest in the Citizens Depopulation program this year,” reads the notice. “For additional context, there are currently seven companies participating in the Citizens Depopulation program for 2023 and the number of policies being requested in the first half of 2023 is more than the total number of policies requested in 2022.”
The rapid growth of Citizens amid a worrying — and potentially crumbling — property insurance market has caused concern among state leaders as the insurer estimates adding an additional 400,000 policies and $645 billion in total insured value by the end of the year. As of this month, Citizens totaled 1,322,696 policies.
Citizens, which was created as an insurer of last resort, has become the largest property insurer in the state as private companies have dropped customers and raised rates because of financial challenges related to natural disasters and rapidly inflating costs of labor and materials to repair or replace damaged property.
One of the most glaring problems facing Citizens, which is subsidized by state dollars, is that it’s significantly less expensive to get insurance through Citizens than it is going through the private market.
Citizens CEO Tim Cerio noted this week that agency projections may be lower if depopulation measures prove to be effective at moving some portion of property owners back into the private market as reforms enacted over the last several years begin to take effect.
He further outlined Citizens’ plan to bring premiums up so that they are in line with private insurer premiums – while at the same time allowing time for the private market’s premiums to more closely reflect an actuarially sound premium level.
Earlier this year, the Citizens Board of Governors internally sanctioned a proposal that grants organizational leaders the opportunity to petition the OIR for authorization to implement a 14.2 percent hike in insurance expenses.
According to the group, the recommended rates for 2023 call for a statewide average increase on all personal lines policies including homes, condominium units, dwellings, renters, and mobile homes due to inflation in the construction market.
Ahead of Florida’s hurricane season, the most tumultuous and unpredictable stretch of any given calendar year for property insurers, the OIR also authorized a request for $1.25 billion in credit lines for Citizens. The order, signed by OIR Commissioner Michael Yaworsky, grants $750 million in credit with Bank of America and $500 million with Wells Fargo.
According to the authorization, Citizens will be permitted to use the money, if needed, to help pay claims and expenses for personal lines accounts through a Revolving Credit Agreement, which includes homeowners’ policies.
As a stipulation, the OIR is requiring Citizens to provide the state with quarterly updates on amounts borrowed, amounts used to settle claims and associated costs, amounts repaid, and amounts expected to be levied for debt repayment.
“The purpose of the lines of credit is to provide the personal lines account with needed liquidity in preparation for the 2023 hurricane season,” reads the order. “As a result, the Lines of Credit will enable Citizens to efficiently meet its financial obligations.”
The granted lines of credit come just months after Gov. Ron DeSantis raised eyebrows when he indicated during a March press conference that Citizens has “not been solvent” and could struggle or be unable to pay claims following another large-scale natural disaster.