Floridians received some bad, but not unexpected, news last week. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' recent report, the state has the highest homeowners insurance premiums in the country. At $1,933 (in 2011, the most current year available), the average rate here is almost twice the national average.
While the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation works on its own analysis, at the request of the state's chief financial officer, industry pundits and consumer advocates have noted that the last two governors approached the problem from different angles. The OIR report, due in mid-January, may confirm or may negate any speculation, though.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who served from 2007-2011, hit insurance rates head-on, working with Citizens and regulators to keep increases low. Current Gov. Rick Scott has followed a free-market path; his efforts include depopulating Citizens Property Insurance Corp. as well as trying to make the state more attractive to private homeowners insurance companies.
Speaking of Citizens, the NAIC report includes Citizens' premiums for the first time this year. The result was a 25 percent increase over 2010's average rate. Citizens, of course, covers the riskier properties, the ones that are less attractive to private insurance companies -- the properties that should take advantage of the state's insurer of last resort.
The NAIC and state regulators admit that comparing premiums between states is not exactly an apples-to-apples exercise. Just as coastal properties in Florida have higher premiums than homes farther from the shore, the characteristics of one state can be vastly different and can carry different risk values from another state.
For homeowners, the difference between states could be significant, though. It could be the difference between staying in the Sunshine State and moving to one of those land-locked states with extremely low insurance rates.
Source: The Ledger, "Report: Florida Homeowner Coverage Most Costly," Zac Anderson, Dec. 17, 2013