Citizens is granted latest rate increase

Published May 20, 2006

Florida homeowners insured by Citizens Property Insurance will see their premiums go up an average of 16.1 percent statewide this year. But for those living in areas with the greatest risk for hurricane or sinkhole damage, such as Pinellas and Pasco counties, the average increase will be more than 25 percent.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation on Friday approved the statewide increase that Citizens had requested in December. The approval also granted Citizens a combined average 6.7 percent increase for mobile home policies, no increase for condominium unit policies, and 21.5 percent for dwelling fire policies.

The new rates take effect in August and September.

Created by lawmakers in 2002 and bound by law to have the highest rates in the state, Citizens already is collecting a 16.9 percent increase to cover the 2004-2005 storms and has asked for an additional 45 percent increase that has not yet been approved by regulators.

The eight hurricanes that struck Florida in the past two years caused $30.2-billion in insured losses and 2.8-million claims.

While only Citizens' policyholders are directly affected by the rate increases, all Florida homeowners are affected by the deficits Citizens has amassed over the past two hurricane seasons. Everyone with property insurance in Florida had to pay an assessment last year to help Citizens cover its $516-million shortfall from 2004.

- TOM ZUCCO, Times staff writer