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Politics

Citizens falls below 1 million policies for first time since 2006


Published:   |   Updated: February 10, 2014 at 07:29 PM

TALLAHASSEE — Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the government body that is still Florida’s largest insurer, announced today it has dropped below 1 million policies.

A new count shows Citizens with 942,321 policies in force. That’s down 36 percent from a high of almost 1.48 million in October 2012.

Citizens says this is the first time it has fewer than 1 million policies since August 2006.

“Recent takeout efforts, legislative initiatives and an improving private market have combined to push Citizens’ exposure to the lowest level in more than seven years,” the company said in a statement.

The drop in exposure suggests the company, originally set up as an insurer of last resort, will be better positioned to pay out claims if the next big storm hits.

By the end of last year, Citizens had about 212,000 personal residential policies in force in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, company records show.

The nonprofit company came about after millions of Floridians couldn’t get homeowner insurance following Hurricane Andrew in 1992. In the years since, lawmakers have complained Citizens took on too much risk. At the same time, it was underpriced for the market, leaving it short on cash.

Gov. Rick Scott, among others, has pushed Citizens to decrease its customer count and reduce the value of homes it can insure. Citizens responded in part by creating a “clearinghouse,” a website available only to agents, who work with customers to “shop for comparable offers of coverage from participating private-market carriers.”

A customer is ineligible for Citizens coverage if one of the private insurers charges premiums within 15 percent of Citizens rates.

In November, spokesman Michael Peltier had predicted Citizens “is likely to go below 1 million policies early next year.”

Claims exposure has dropped from $515 billion in November 2011 to $302 billion — a 41 percent decrease, the company said.

jrosica@tampatrib.com

(850) 765-0807

Twitter: @jlrosicaTBO

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