Aug. 18--The Monroe County Commission on Wednesday agreed to lend a hand to nonprofit group Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe. The goal: gather data needed to fund a study showing Citizens Property Insurance Corp. why its windstorm rates for the Keys are too high.
For years, the Keyswide group has been fighting the state's insurer of last over rates, this time hoping to secure "up to $350,000" for a new study verifying the high construction quality of Keys buildings.
FIRM Executive Director Annalise Mannix detailed what the study would entail but stopped short of asking for money to fund it.
"We still don't know the exact amount of money that it's going to cost. We were waiting on that but haven't gotten it yet. In the meantime, before we actually do the analysis, the important ask was, 'Can your staff work with us or Citizens to get the data necessary they'll need to do a proper analysis?'" Mannix said.
The commission made that pledge, directing staff to help gather the information. Mannix said she met with a county building official and planner directly following her presentation in Key Largo.
The commission also agreed to send a letter to Citizens requesting it help fund the study, as well as another letter to Gov. Rick Scott and state insurance officials asking Citizens to stop policy depopulation efforts in Monroe County immediately.
Scott's plan to cut back drastically on the number of Citizens policies statewide is having immediate adverse effects on Monroe County. That includes:
--A $1 million cap on the value of a home for which Citizens would provide windstorm insurance.
--Creating a wide-ranging re-inspection program searching for safety deficiencies.
--Denying windstorm insurance to homes intended to be rented out for seven days or less.
--Eliminating builder's risk insurance on new construction.
Citizens holds about 1.5 million policies statewide, including around 25,700 in the Keys. "They want to cut that in half ... very quickly," Mannix told the commission.
FIRM has long held that Citizens' rates discriminate against the Keys and that its actuarial models don't take into account our strict building code. Mannix said that from 2003 to 2011, Citizens' gross profit in Monroe County is just over $500 million.
"We noticed we don't seem to be a bad risk, but are considered equal to the worst risk in the state," she said.
That's where Mannix said the proposed study would make a huge difference.
"It gives us the ability to go back to the state or private insurers and say, 'Look we're a better risk.' But it also gives us ability to detail down to neighborhoods and say which might be higher risk that pushed us into a higher risk pool," she said.
Mannix said she plans to visit with Keys municipalities as soon as possible to gather their support for the study, as well.
(c)2012 the Florida Keys Keynoter (Marathon, Fla.)
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