As hurricane season enters prime time and rate increases begin showing up on property insurance bills, South Florida homeowners may rightly wonder whether their insurance coverage will protect them if a big one hits.
Patty Harris, who owns a home in West Miami, has seen her insurance premium cost nearly double since 2010 to over $4,000, although during the past two years with Florida Peninsula her rates have been relatively stable, even decreasing a bit, she said.
“I certainly hope Florida Peninsula lives up to their reputation,” said Harris, who switched from Citizens in 2013. “My research showed they are probably one of the more solvent [insurers] but that will only be known when I may need them. … I guess I’m living on borrowed time, like everyone else.”
In South Florida, homeowners typically pay the highest property insurance rates in the state. They are most likely covered by the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. or one of the scores of much smaller, private insurance companies, similar to Florida Peninsula, focused on insurance business in the state. Many of these arose in the past decade to lure homeowners away from the state-run entity. How strong are these insurers?
Industry executives and analysts interviewed for this article said the industry as a whole is the strongest it has been since the hurricane swoon of 2004-2005 and that Citizens, South Florida’s dominant insurer, has never been in better shape. That’s the good news.
Here’s the not-so-good: Nearly 11 years without a major storm battering South Florida means that many of the smaller companies are untested.