July 01--State Farm Insurance Co. is asking Florida regulators permission to hike its property rates an average of 14.9 percent. But the public will have limited options to voice any concerns in person over most of the rate review process.
Florida'sOffice of Insurance Regulation spokeswoman Amy Bogner said the regulatory agency decided to hold a public meeting only on that portion of the rate hike that affects renters. State Farm is requesting to increase that group's rate by an average of nearly 49 percent. The company is also asking to raise rates for its condominium owners an average of 27.3 percent.
Citing Florida statutes, Bogner said the regulatory agency wasn't required to hold public meetings on rate hike requests less than 15 percent. State Farm's request for homeowner increases was an average of 14.2 percent across Florida.
State Farm has 466,000 policyholders, or 7.7 percent of the market. It is the second largest private insurer in Florida. Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Co. has 567,000 policyholders, or 9.3 percent of the market.
There are more than 700 State Farm policyholders in Marion County.
Bogner said customers can voice their opinions to regulators by email or a website that they will post before the July 25 public hearing on renters' insurance.
It's unclear what Marion County's share of the hike will be if it's approved.
State Farm spokeswoman Michal Connolly said the insurance company no longer details how much it wants to increase its rates in each county, but that it would vary based on several risk factors.
Connolly said the bulk of the increase request was due to sinkhole activity and fraudulent sinkhole claims.
New Florida laws no longer automatically sign on customers for sinkhole coverage and allows insurance companies to drop the coverage. State Farm also no longer homeowners insurance to new customers.
State Farm's request comes just weeks before Citizens Property Insurance Corp. board of governors will meet to consider its own rate hikes. That meeting will be held July 16 in Miami.
In the company filings to Florida regulators, State Farm reported that its claims reserves had fallen to $368 million and that it's net underwriting loss was nearly $2 million in 2011 and about the same amount both during 2009 and 2010.
Reach Fred Hiers at firstname.lastname@example.org and 867-4157
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