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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott said thousands of State Farm customers are going to be shocked by their premium increases on rental properties if the company gets its requested rate hikes.

Executives with State Farm Florida Insurance Company raised their right hands and promised to tell the truth in a hearing before state insurance regulators Wednesday.

The company wants to raise premiums an average of 25 percent statewide for coverage on rental units. In Hillsborough County, the rate increase would average 37 percent.

State Farm said it needs to raise those rates to make sure it's collecting enough money to cover projected losses. The company said those premiums have been too low in the past.

Westcott thinks the premium increases are too high for about 3,000 customers.

"This is going to be a shocker for them and perhaps our market is to the point now where it can absorb those 3,000 people when they say, 'I'm not going to pay you that for this,' and they can go find a comparable rate or a rate that they feel like is more appropriate for them."

Westcott is advising those customers to look for better rates with other insurers.

"Now is the time we look to shop our insurance policies. The market is better. We have companies that have responded in our marketplace that do have the ability to write your policy."

State regulators said one of their concerns about State Farm's rate request was that it would raise premiums for rental dwelling coverage at a time when the company was saving money on lower reinsurance costs and recording lower expenses.

Kathy Popejoy of State Farm confirmed those expenses were declining, but said that line of coverage was also losing customers.

"The actual expenses as you can on Exhibit 6 see are going down dollar-wise, those expenses are going down. But the policy count is going down more."

Under State Farm's request, individual customers buying coverage for their rental properties would see rate changes ranging from a 43 percent decrease to a 119 percent increase.

The company has 26,000 rental dwelling policies.

The Office of Insurance Regulation will rule on the request later.

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