MIAMI (CBSMiami) — One issue the Florida Legislature didn’t address in this year’s session was rising homeowners insurance rates in Florida.
On Sunday’s “Facing South Florida,” CBS4’s Jim DeFede asked Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes if there was an insurance crisis in the state.
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Brands: Absoutely. I think it’s a crisis for consumers. You know, consumer advocates have said that the insurance industry, consumers are on life support. And what we’re seeing are 30% rate increases every year for consumers going forward. It’s a huge problem. And if someone doesn’t believe that doubling rates every few years isn’t a problem, I don’t know what, I don’t know what else to tell them. But we are in a state of absolute crisis and our property insurer, Citizen’s Property Insurance, had around 480,000 policies two years ago. It now has 800,000 fonts just a year and a half later, and we expect it to reach over a million fonts by the end of the year. In the meantime, we are losing insurers. The carriers are withdrawing from the state. Investors do not invest in Florida. The industry as a whole lost $1.5 billion in 2020. It lost $1.6 billion in 2021. And so it’s a crashing market.
From Fede: You would think that a 60-day legislative session with two or three months before that of the committee hearings would have delved into this issue and begun to address it on the first day of the session. Why didn’t it happen this year?
Brands: Absoutely. Listen, this bill should have been worked on eight months ago. And yet, we are in day 60 of negotiations with the House on what the insurance industry should look like in the future. I think we are heading for a special session. I think it’s been an absolute one-year disaster in the property insurance world, at least from a policy perspective. But in the end, look, the legislator dropped the ball on property insurance this year. There is no doubt about it, but it will take the Governor to engage on a much deeper level and really force the hand of the House and Senate to enshrine meaningful insurance reforms. Because without it, you’re going to lose more business. Consumers will have less choice and prices will rise.
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From Fede: I think the number is, I saw recently, there’s six companies that have announced they’re pulling out of Florida in the last two months, right?
Brands: It’s correct. And we’ve had companies go to the Office of Insurance Regulation and ask for a 100% rate increase. So we know that everyone is on deck here. And, unfortunately, we have members who are still sleeping below deck.
From Fede: As we focus so much time and attention on these so-called culture war issues, whether it’s the ‘Stop WOKE Act’, the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’, immigration , of whatever you want to deal with that ends up sucking all the time during the session where the important issues, whether it’s property insurance or affordable housing, those are the big issues that I think the voters are more interested in hearing, yet they are not being addressed. Why are they not treated?
Brands: Well look, what worried me about this year was that it was going to be a red meat year, a red meat year, but it wasn’t going to be a state red meat year. . It was going to be a national red meat year. And that’s exactly how it happened. It’s, we’re tackling national issues that are on the edge, you know? You know, the state of Florida is involved in the world of immigration. You know, the “Stop WOKE Act,” the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, those kind of nationalized issues that are aimed at the national audience. In the meantime, you know, we have real problems with home insurance and auto and home insurance. Make housing more affordable. In so many different areas – the criminal justice system or the prison system breaks down. So we have a ton of different areas, but it just wasn’t a heavy political year. I mean, I kind of go back to the old Wendy’s commercial where the lady opens the bun and says, “Where’s the beef?” That’s kind of how I felt about this legislative session.
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Other lawmakers DeFede spoke to agreed with Brandes that a special session was needed in the coming weeks to deal with the rising cost of homeowners insurance.