From individuals triple checking their bills and pinching pennies to legislators in Tallahassee, everyone in Florida is trying to find a way to save on property insurance. The facts are starting, no matter how many times they flash across our news screens or are printed in our local papers. Annual premiums for Floridians are now more than triple the national average and continuing to rise at an unsustainable pace. Citizens, Florida’s state-funded insurance company, now houses 1.4 million Floridians and will raise rates 11.5% this year, an alarming number, but still less than many private insurers.
Many Floridians are attempting to save money on their monthly bills by opting for insurance plans with lower premiums. What many don’t realize is these plans often come with less coverage, resulting in a harrowing path for homeowners when disaster strikes. In my role as a public adjuster, it’s my job to help insured Floridians get what they are fairly owed when they need to file an insurance claim. However, all too often, homeowners are left hanging and are not able to return to their normal lives because their insurance policy no longer provides them the means to do so.
As insurance prices continue to skyrocket, coverage has not kept up with cost. Most homeowners, myself included, are paying more for less. It is essential to know where those holes in your coverage are, how much you are saving because of them and how much they will cost you if you need to file a claim. All Floridians have the right to make an informed decision about their home insurance policy. As president of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, I encourage homeowners to review these key pieces of their insurance policies:
Exclusions have been used to reduce insurance company risk for decades. These clauses in your contract exempt your carrier from paying for certain types of damage. The list of common exclusions has grown in recent years and can include important considerations like mold, earth movement, fences, screened-in enclosures and water damage.
It has become more enticing for homeowners to accept higher deductibles in exchange for a modest decrease in their policy cost. A deductible is how much you will have to pay out of pocket before insurance will begin covering your damage. In recent decades these deductible amounts have continued to rise while separate deductibles have been introduced for hurricanes, sinkholes and roofs. When checking your policy, consider if you will be able to cover your full deductible before dollars from your insurance company kick in.
Matching endorsements are a relatively new insurance option being offered to Floridians. This exclusion limits the amount of money an insurance company must pay to try and match the existing aesthetic of your home. For example, picture having your damaged kitchen cabinetry replaced with a different style or color from the rest, or a section of roof repaired using mismatched shingles or tiles. Not only does this not look very appealing, but it also reduces home value.
These are far from the only examples of how insurance companies look to avoid risk by having policyholders accept greater burdens. Consumers should also be aware of managed repair programs, where insurance companies control who performs repairs, and actual cash value, where roof payouts are depreciated and do not cover full replacements.
As a licensed public insurance adjuster and a committed consumer advocate, I have seen firsthand how diminished coverage has become part of the Florida insurance ecosystem. Policyholders often unknowingly lose valuable coverage in exchange for modestly smaller insurance premiums.
While it is important for this to be the homeowner’s choice, it is just as important for them to be informed about the choices they make and how a short-term decision can have long-term ramifications. If you are a homeowner reading this piece, I encourage you to look at your policy, read it, ask questions and consider bringing it to an expert if you need further assistance. Think about not only what you are paying for, but also what you are not paying for.
John Hornbuckle is president of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters’ board of directors. He is a former mayor of Biscayne Park, obtained his public adjusters license in 2011 and is focused on advocacy for insurance consumers.