JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hurricane Ian may have left Florida, but it has not yet damaged the Sunshine State.
Early projections put Ian Florida’s insurance market at between $30 billion and $50 billion at a time when the state’s insurance market is already life-support. The result will be higher costs for all Floridians.
While Northeast Florida as a whole dodged a bullet with Hurricane Ian, John Ford’s home wasn’t so lucky.
“It was just a big boom,” Ford said.
A large oak tree now lies on his roof, having punched a hole in the ceiling and allowed water to seep into the frame of his house.
Still, Ford says he’s lucky.
“If it literally landed 10 feet like that, it’s over my in-laws’ part of the house,” Ford said.
Ford is insured, which is good news.
But the damage to Ford’s home is the least concern of Florida insurers right now.
“The market would lose $1 billion before this storm. So you have to understand, if there was a year when we didn’t need a storm, it was this year,” said State Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg).
Brandes has been raising red flags in the Florida Legislature for years about the health of the Florida property insurance market.
Six insurance companies have collapsed in Florida this year alone.
Now with Hurricane Ian, Brandes expects that number to increase.
He reckons that companies that stay in the Florida market will have to raise interest rates drastically to stay afloat.
Insurance rates in Florida have already doubled in the past four years.
“If I’m advising the governor now, you know, give him a week or two and then you’ve got to call a task force to really put together the solutions for Florida’s property insurance going forward, or we’re going to essentially have a middle class, priced out of property insurance in Florida,” Brandes said.
Ford told us the downstream costs of the storm could be an issue, but for now his focus is on getting his home back to normal.
“What just happened in the South is devastation. So I expect things to go up, I expect things to have an impact, but you know, we’re going to adjust,” Ford said.
Sen. Brandes said there is a silver lining for the insurance market.
If the storm had hit Tampa Bay as originally expected, it would have hit Citizens, the state-backed insurer of last resort, much harder.
Citizens insures more than one in four homes in Pinellas County, which would have increased the potential for a hurricane tax to be levied on all policyholders statewide.
In Lee and Highlands, which took the brunt of Ian’s wrath, Citizens insures fewer than one in ten houses.
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