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Florida's property insurance crisis: Be ready for higher rates from state-run insurer Citizens

If you are one of the 1.35 million policyholders with Citizens Property Insurance, you may want to prepare for your bill to go up.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Property insurance rates are on the rise, but how high could they go?

First Coast News is On Your Side, diving deeper into how Florida's property insurance crisis is impacting your wallet. The state-run insurance corporation, Citizens Property Insurance, is supposed to be the “insurer of last resort,” but as private insurance companies flee the state, Citizens has become Florida’s largest insurer. Now, the insurance company is trying to offload those customers.

If you are one of Citizens' 1.35 million policyholders, you may want to prepare for your bill to go up. This week, state regulators rejected Citizens’ request to hike rates by 12 percent, but some increase is all but certain. Your rate could also increase if your Citizens policy is taken over by a private insurer when Citizens offloads customers in October.

When Susan Gregory's insurance company went insolvent earlier this year, her policy ended up with Slide Insurance.

"10 days before renewal, I got the bill for $36,000," Gregory told First Coast News in June.

Slide is one of five companies slated to take over almost 200,000 policies from Citizens in October. Slide can assume the most policies out of all the companies, up to 100,000, according to an order from the state office of insurance regulation. Under Florida law, a private insurer taking over your Citizens policy can’t hike your bill by 300 percent like Gregory's -- at least not right away.

"Pursuant of the statute, private insurance companies are not supposed to charge 20 percent more than what the Citizens policy currently charges," explained Robert Jameson, a Florida property insurance attorney.

Jameson says the 20 percent rule is only good until your policy must be renewed; then a private insurance company can charge you whatever they want, like Gregory's $36,000 renewal rate.

Jameson says most people can expect to pay more because customers become ineligible for Citizens if a private insurer offers you anything within 20 percent of what you pay with Citizens.

"Rates are going to likely increase for those that have been selected to go over to private insurance," Jameson said. "The question really becomes then: are they going to see a decrease in coverage under those particular policies?"

First Coast News reached out to Slide asking how much they may increase rates for policies they take over from Citizens. They have not responded to our questions.

The other private insurers allowed to take over Citizens' policies in October are SafePoint, Southern Oak, Florida Peninsula, and Monarch.

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