The State of Florida is in the midst of a homeowners insurance crisis. All across the Treasure Coast, residents have been hit with sticker shock after receiving their homeowner insurance bills, reflecting anywhere from 10 to 50 percent increases in their premiums! Port St. Lucie Business Women member Kathy Post, CEO and owner of Post Insurance (insurewithpost.com) in St. Lucie West gave a powerful presentation about what is happening in Florida, and what can be done to reign in runaway insurance costs at the May 19 meeting of the Port St. Lucie Business Women held at Tutto Fresco in St. Lucie West.

What is driving the price increases? Post explained that insurance rates are based on shared risk. Insurance companies purchase reinsurance, which is insurance for insurers, allowing companies to limit their losses when claims are paid by spreading the risk of exposure to a major disaster. There have been a lot of global disasters in recent years, affecting the cost of reinsurance. The increase in reinsurance costs is then passed along to consumers.

Until a state law that was recently passed reducing the time a claim can be filed from three to two years, insurance companies were paying claims dating back to 2017 and 2018, when Hurricanes Irma and Michael came ashore. Repair costs today are higher than when damage originally occurred, aggravated by material shortages.

Additionally, there has been a tremendous increase in homeowner insurance claims. To better understand what has been happening and why she said to watch the April 14 “Price of Paradise” story on Tampa Bay’s ABC News affiliate on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QElObXObnw)/

In 2020, 80,000 lawsuits were filed in Florida. In comparison, the nationwide average was 900 lawsuits filed annually per state. Attorneys representing homeowners who have had property damage are allowed to charge up to three times their regular rate, something known as an attorney fee multiplier. This was instituted to encourage attorneys to accept smaller cases. “What many people do not realize is that more than two-thirds of the money awarded in this type of lawsuit go towards attorney fees, not the homeowner,” said Post. “This is a big cost driver,” she added. Post referenced the survey ‘Florida’s P&C Insurance Market: Spiraling Toward Collapse’ commissioned by the Senate Banking And Insurance Committee, which found that in 2019, 71 percent of the money awarded went to roofer attorney fees and that 25 attorneys filed 33 percent of those suits.

Predatory practices by roofing companies and other contractors have taken a toll as well. “Any contractor or sales representative telling you that you will not have to pay your insurance deductible is committing fraud,” stated Post. “Don’t be tempted by such a statement.”

She also cautioned not to sign any papers concerning an Assignment of Benefits. She warns that doing so may sign away your rights and allow a contractor to sue your insurance company. Instead, she suggested doing a Direction of Pay, where an insurance company pays the contractor directly. For more information, she recommends consulting the website of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation at https://floir.com/consumers/assignment-of-benefits-resources.

What can a homeowner do to help control the cost of their insurance premiums? Post recommends keeping up with home maintenance, as you would your car. She noted that you wouldn’t ignore your tires until they frayed or exploded. A car needs regular check-ups and scheduled maintenance to make sure it’s in good working order, and to spot problems that require fixing.

For a home, “Consider replacing a shingle roof if it’s older than 15 years,” suggested Post. Tile and metal will likely need replacement after 25 years. “Get a Wind Mitigation and 4-Point inspection examining roofing, electrical, plumbing and HVAC. This is particularly important for older homes,” she added. Inspectors will look at breaker boxes, water heaters, exteriors, roofs, driveways, plumbing fixtures, and more to find any issues that might affect your ability to get coverage. Additionally, these inspections might uncover a problem of which a homeowner was unaware, allowing the homeowner to fix an issue before it might become a major expense.

Ask yourself how much you are willing to self-insure. Premiums may be lowered by adjusting deductibles, coverage limits, endorsements and exclusions. Post cautions to closely read your policy’s details. If a premium decreases, find out what is no longer included in your insurance policy. Then speak to your agent.

Post Insurance & Financial, Inc., has been assisting homeowners on the Treasure Coast since 1979 and is one of the longest operating small businesses in Port St. Lucie. As one of the top independent insurance agencies in the country, Post Insurance and Kathy Post have been recognized with numerous awards. For more information, visit insurewithpost.com.

The Port St. Lucie Business Women is a 42-year-old, 501 (c) (6) non-profit professional organization dedicated to promoting the interests of businesswomen and serving our community effectively. For more information, visit PSLBW.com. Follow their Facebook page for updates about events, programs and community involvement.