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State Farm's nonrenewal estimate low

The insurer will dump 74,000 coastal policies, nearly 50 percent more than initially predicted.

By TOM ZUCCO, Times Staff Writer
Published November 2, 2007


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TALLAHASSEE- Back in July, State Farm Florida told regulators it would drop the windstorm insurance on some 50,000 homeowner, condo, mobile home and renter policies within 2 miles of the coast starting Jan. 1.

Make that more than 74,000 policies - nearly 50 percent more. According to updated figures submitted to state regulators, State Farm will not renew 74,098 policies.

"The 50,000 was just an estimate, based on our original projection that we'd keep people who had auto policies," State Farm spokesman Chris Neal said. "When State Farm agreed to drop policies within a mile of the coast, the number changed."

Florida's largest private insurer, State Farm has a significant presence in the Tampa Bay area, with 136,485 policyholders, a quarter homeowners.

That, too, will change. According to State Farm figures, Pasco will lose 648 policies, Hillsborough 3,437, while Pinellas takes the brunt: 11,117.

"Pinellas is a big county," Neal said. "It's just a long skinny island or peninsula with quite a bit of coastline."

Policyholders will be notified by mail at least 125 days before their policies expire. The first letters were scheduled to go out Sept. 15.

The pullback is expected to push more of the state's riskiest properties into the ever-growing state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state's largest property insurer.

Brevard County has the largest number of policies being dropped 12,650. That county's coastal area is represented by Sens. Mike Haridopolos and Bill Posey.

A key senator who oversaw much of this year's insurance policy changes, Posey said he has heard rumors that State Farm was targeting his district as revenge for his work extending the state's no-fault laws last month. State Farm had wanted no-fault to lapse or for the state to enact mandatory bodily injury coverage.

Neal, the State Farm spokesman, called charges that a person or an area was targeted "ridiculous."

"We cannot discriminate. We're just drawing a line 1 mile from the coast," Neal said, adding that Posey "has a coastal district, so more of his constituents would be impacted than, say, Sen. Al Lawson's in Tallahassee."

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

[Last modified November 1, 2007, 23:21:06]


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