Monroe Homeowners Fail Firm

 

By Rick Boettger

 

Only 2 percent of Keys homeowners are letting their homes be studied in an attempt by Fair Insurance Rates for Monroe County to lower our windstorm rates. FIRM heroically got Citizens Insurance to fund a $485,000 study of how our Keys homes are built, in order to get fairer rates for our coverage.

 

 

FIRM discovered that over an eight-year period, including 6 major hurricanes, Monroe homeowners paid $600 million in premiums, and collected only $100 million in claims.

 

 

Essentially, the quality of our buildings, unrecognized by Citizens’ old risk models, means our windstorm premiums should be only one-sixth as much as we are paying. Personally, that means my $4,940 bill should be under $1,000.

 

 

To correctly judge ourbuilding standards in the Keys, a reputable international team of engineers and actuaries has been hired by FIRMto inspect our buildings. They cannot accept volunteers to have their homes inspected, because that would favor people who know their homes are windproof. They have to randomly sample homes to accurately describe our homes’ strength overall.

 

 

But this entire program, so hard-fought-for by FIRM for over a year, and an amazing achievement, is being threatened by Monroe homeowners’ refusal to allow their homes to be inspected. I can only think they are afraid a weakness might be discovered that would jack up their already sky-high rates. Or, they’re afraid someone will see work completed without benefit of permits.

 

 

But the way the study is conducted makes that impossible. All homes are carefully kept confidential, identified only by a code kept secret by the inspection firm. They are not interested in any individual home. It is only the homes studied as a group that is important, so important to us all here in the Keys.

 

So please, any homeowner lucky enough to get an offer for a free, confidential windstorm inspection of their home, please say YES. At least, call FIRM at the number they provide on the survey to confirm your confidentiality.

 

At the rate Citizens’ premiums are increasing, in 10 years they will far outstrip our mortgage payments. Homes here will only be able to be sold to cash buyers, who can deny windstorm coverage. The premiums on our four-unit old Conch house condominium have doubled in 7 years, while no hurricane payouts have occurred in Monroe County.

 

 

Further, we have to add to that the greatly increasing costs of flood insurance. Almost 12,000 homes in Monroe County will be affected by FEMA’s new premiums. Some relief is being given to primary homeowners, in that their rate hikes will be limited.

 

 

But second home owners, businesses, residential rentals, and resales will experience huge increases—like the Big Pine Key home that went from $1,989 to $49,252, 25 times as much, and over one-fourth of what they paid for the house. On a smaller scale, the rate for a $27,500 mobile home on Stock Island jumped from $393 to $3,217.

 

 

The recent HR 3370 law mitigating such increases is helping out, but it’s hard to get a rate quote right now because the system isn’t fully up to date yet.

And a new fear is of revised flood maps. Again, this directly affects me, as our building is right on the edge of a flood X zone. Scott Fraser is Key West’s liaison with FEMA. He can’t get anything in print from FEMA, but verbally he’s heard that the new maps will be drawn in 2017-18, incorporating a one-foot rise in the flood level.

 

 

That means we might be liable for this further insurance, and, since we haven’t had it before, we’ll be hit with the full actuarial rate. A guess would be another $4,500.

 

 

So the way things are going, my 10-year insurance costs look to be close to $100,000. This is not good for anyone’s budget, or for potential buyers of our otherwise-wonderful property.

 

 

FIRM has fought for us for years now, on windstorm and now flood premiums. They have had great success. But they’ve gone as far as they can on their own. They have helped us. Now we have to help ourselves. Let your home be inspected!