By Charles Elmore – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Hurricanes may have swerved away since 2005, but Florida’s homeowners still are taking direct hits on the wallet.
Floridians pay the nation’s most expensive home insurance premiums, averaging $2,115, up from $2,084 a year earlier, statistics released Wednesday show.
“The annual premium increases are not justified,” said Nicole Vinson, a Tampa attorney who sues insurers and heads a group called Policyholders of Florida. “In addition to paying more, policyholders are receiving less coverage than our neighboring states, even those on coastlines.”
Insurers and their allies say abuses by attorneys, contractors and others to inflate claims such as plumbing leaks — a hot topic in legislative debate Wednesday — are one way rates can go up even when hurricanes go away. That’s the case officials at state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. make about rates it raised this year in South Florida, including Palm Beach County.
“This is a growing problem,” Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera told a state Senate panel that amended a bill, SB 1242, to try to limit alleged abuses Wednesday. “There’s significant evidence this is leading to higher premiums.”
Attorneys and contractors weave a different tale, but there is not much debate about where Florida stands compared to the rest of the nation when it comes to the cost of home insurance.