tampabay.com

Allstate backtracks on rate hike request

Last month, it wanted a 19 percent jump for homeowners. Now it's asking for half that.

By Tom Zucco
Published December 13, 2006


Allstate Floridian is willing to cut its proposed 2007 rate increase in half. At least for now.

When Allstate officials went before state regulators last month to ask for a 19 percent statewide rate increase, they were told to come back when they had reworked their numbers.

Monday, Allstate did just that, returning with a request for less than half of what they originally sought - an average 8.1 percent increase for homeowners and 6.9 percent for condo owners.

But the state's third-largest property insurer also left the door open for more increases.

"We are going to continue to pursue whatever options we need to ensure we have adequate claims paying capacity," Allstate spokesman Adam Shores said Tuesday. "This is an initial part of what we need."

Regulators are in the process of reviewing Allstate's amended rate request.

Allstate Floridian and Allstate Floridian Indemnity, a subsidiary that insures higher-risk properties, had initially sought average statewide increases of 22.5 and 33.2 percent, respectively, for homeowners policies. In parts of Pinellas and Pasco counties, the hikes could have been as high as 70 percent.

But with the amended filing, the largest increases in those counties would now be close to 14 percent.

In one respect, Allstate policyholders are fortunate. Nationwide has proposed a 71.5 percent average statewide increase that is currently in arbitration, and State Farm has already won a 52.7 percent average increase.

Citizens Property Insurance and the United Services Automobile Association, or USAA, have also sought rate hikes of 26 percent or higher.

But Allstate Floridian differs in that it has dramatically cut back the number of homes it insures.

Once the second-largest insurer in the state behind State Farm, Allstate Floridian has canceled about 240,000 policies since the 2004 hurricane season, leaving the company with about 390,000 policies.

As Allstate's book of business declines, so does its need to buy expensive private reinsurance, which it cites as the main reason for the rate hike.

Bob Lotane, a spokesman for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, gave no indication whether the amended filing was more palatable.

"We just found so many problems with the initial filing," he said. "And in the public hearing, we did not get answers that improved the situation."

Tom Zucco can be reached at zucco@sptimes.com or 727 893-8247.