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Date of Issue: August 13, 2008

Insurance: Big changes for wind-only policyholderss

Memo to the hundreds of Anna Maria Island residents who have wind-only coverage with the state-created Citizens Property Insurance Corporation:

“Your current wind-only policy is being discontinued. Your current coverage will expire about six months from now on the date indicated on the attached expiration notice. You must reapply for coverage.”

Those are the opening lines in the warning letter that Citizens has begun sending to its wind-only residential customers to make sure they understand that their current coverage is going to expire over the next year, beginning in February, and they must reapply for a policy.

Citizens announced its plan Aug. 5 with a flurry of press releases, explaining that the change is necessary to upgrade Citizens’ “aging” system for writing wind-only policies and “to provide better customer service.”

“We’re not canceling any policies,” said executive vice president Suzanne Murphy during a media briefing in Tallahassee.

Wind-only policies are being discontinued - as they expire over the next year - for about 350,000 Citizens policyholders throughout Florida. That number includes 2,475 wind-only policyholders who live in the Manatee County coastal portions of Anna Maria Island and north Longboat Key.

Most people whose policies are being discontinued will qualify for a new policy.

Murphy also said that Citizens is not raising its rates.

However, wind-only policyholders will pay a higher premium if they are found to need additional coverage when they reapply, Citizens said.

At present the average wind-only residential premium in Manatee County is $1,597, compared to the statewide average of  $1,948.

Most policyholders “do not need to do anything now,” Citizens said. 

But a “few people” should act immediately, officials cautioned. Any wind-only policyholder whose home has a shingle roof that is more than 25 years old or whose roof is more than 50 years old should “call your agent soon to see if you can qualify for our new policy,” Citizens said.

The fact sheets put out by Citizens say the system they have been using to write wind-only residential policies is outdated and needs to be upgraded so that wind-only policies are consistent with multi-peril policies.

The only way to achieve the upgrade, they said, is to let the existing wind-only residential policies expire and have the policyholder reapply for coverage based on the upgraded system and policy forms.

“We now have a wind-only policy form that is a combination of a bunch of forms all in one. It’s hard to read. It’s confusing,” Murphy said.

A Citizens wind-only policyholder living in or renting a single-family home, condo unit or mobile home will have to reapply for coverage.

But if you have multi-peril coverage with Citizens, you already have the upgraded policy forms and your coverage is not affected. Nor is there any impact on the wind-only policies of condominium associations, apartment complexes or businesses.

For more information on the Citizens plan, go to its Web site at citizensfla.com and click on the headline that says: “Big changes for wind-only policies.”

Mark Mixon of Jim Mixon Insurance Inc. in Holmes Beach had a positive reaction to the Citizens plan to upgrade its wind-only policy forms even though it means additional time and effort for him and his agency to help customers apply for new policies.

“Yes, it is more work,” he said, “but in a down market, you’re not doing a lot of new closings. We’ll have time to help our customers make the change.”

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