Amid Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent announcement of a special session to squash the redistricting issues plaguing legislators, Sen. Jeff Brandes broke the mold and requested a special session to pass legislation aimed at correcting Florida’s volatile property insurance market. Florida Senate Democrats joined Brandes on Monday, penning a letter to DeSantis requesting a solution.
Florida’s insurance market has been in a freefall of late with two of the state’s biggest policy writers — St. Johns Insurance and Avatar Property and Casualty Insurance — deemed insolvent this year, bringing the total number of insolvent insurance agencies in Florida up to seven since 2014.
As well as shrinkage in companies, residents are faced with rising premium costs, forcing many to turn to the state-back Citizen’s Insurance, an agency meant to serve as a last resort option for Floridians.
“Florida is near a tipping point, and our neighborhoods are in danger of losing their viability,” reads the Senate Democrats’ letter. “Some insurance companies have been unable to reissue policies, are ceasing operations, or are pricing renewals at unaffordable rates leaving thousands of Floridians with the unsettling surprise that they’ve lost coverage, and must scramble to protect their most valuable asset. All of these issues are clearly creating an affordability crisis for our constituents.”
Last month, Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway projected his company could have more than 1 million policies by the end of this year, as it adds roughly 5,500 policies a week. As of last week, Citizens had 801,341 policies, up from 570,000 a year ago.
Citing catastrophic losses, United Property and Casualty (UPC) Insurance, which is responsible for nearly 200,000 active Florida policies sent a memo to agents earlier this year that pointed toward an unusually active storm season in 2020 that proved to be particularly costly. Coupled with rising reinsurance rates and litigation costs, UPC decided to shutter its new policy writing in an attempt to recoup losses.
“Deliberate and prompt legislative action is needed to protect our constituents at the Legislative level as it relates to this pressing issue,” continues the letter. “I write to request that a special session of the Florida Legislature be convened for the purpose of necessary revisions to Florida’s property insurance laws.”
When asked if property insurance would be tackled in the upcoming April redistricting special session, the governor emphasized that drawing maps is the priority.
However, DeSantis said that a special session for property insurance could be in the cards, and would be held no later than the midterm elections in November.
“There is going to be a need to do more legislative reforms. and we were very clear about that during the (2022) session,” DeSantis said during a state Cabinet meeting last month. “You know, we may have another bite of the apple very, very shortly. But we need to just understand that there is going to be a need for the Legislature to do more. [We] will not wait until the actual session in 2023. It will be done this year.”