New flood insurance mandates take effect
After experiencing unsustainable growth last year due to several insolvencies, Florida’s insurer of last resort now requires customers to buy flood insurance.
The deadline for new Citizens Property Insurance policyholders in high-risk flood zones is April 1. The state-backed agency’s existing customers have until July 1 to meet the recently mandated requirement.
According to riskfactor.com, 38,675 St. Petersburg homes, or roughly half of all properties, have a “severe risk” of flooding. However, homeowners living outside those areas – and with few options other than the subsidized insurer – must also buy flood insurance in the coming years.
Many state and industry officials expect rates to spike another 40-50% in June, and the mandate could force residents already feeling the pinch to add thousands to their insurance bills. Trevor Burgess, CEO of St. Pete-based Neptune Flood, explained the reasons behind the changes and how it affects the nation’s largest technologically-focused flood insurance provider.
“I actually don’t think it will dissuade many people from choosing Citizens,” Burgess said. “I think that a lot of people don’t even realize that their insurance doesn’t cover floods.”
In December 2022, Florida lawmakers tucked the new mandate into legislation they hope will support an industry in crisis. Homeowners started pouring into Citizens last year as six state property insurance companies collapsed.
The subsidized insurer doubled its policies by September 2022, before Hurricane Ian caused widespread devastation throughout Southwest Florida. A Citizens spokesperson called that growth unsustainable, and the company continues to add clients.
Burgess noted Citizens now holds 1.2 million policies, and experts predict it will reach 1.8 million by the end of the year. Legislators now hope to decelerate that growth without raising rates.
“So, one way of doing that is to make a Citizens policy a little less attractive by requiring someone also to have flood (insurance),” Burgess added. “People should have flood – everyone in Florida should have flood insurance.”
The mandate will also save the company – and taxpayers – money. Burgess said homeowner’s insurance often covers flood-related damages for people who don’t pay for that protection.
It could also help address the state’s massive coverage gap. Former State Sen. Jeff Brandes previously noted that much of Ian’s damage was due to flooding, but only 15-20% of those affected had flood insurance.
However, federal law already mandates that anyone with a mortgaged property inside a flood zone must have corresponding insurance. Burgess said those who paid cash for homes over the past decade would “have to pony up” come April 1.
According to Policy Genius, the average annual St. Petersburg premium is $1,042. Costs can vary exponentially depending on the property’s propensity for flooding.
While the April 1 deadline only affects those in vulnerable areas, Citizens will soon begin implementing changes according to property values. Anyone with a home worth over $600,000 must have flood insurance starting Jan. 1, 2024.
The property value threshold then decreases by $100,000 annually. Regardless of where they live, all customers must have flood insurance by Jan. 1, 2027.
So what does that mean for Neptune Flood and other private insurers?
The National Flood Insurance Program – backed by the U.S. Treasury – holds about 95% of all flood insurance policies. Neptune has around 145,000 nationwide customers, compared to the NFIP’s 4.7 million.
Burgess said the new mandate should increase business for one of Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing companies “but there’s only so much one particular flood insurer can take in one particular state.”
“We will have more demand, which is great, but we’re not going to be able to take on a million new policies,” Burgess said. “Most of that is going to end up with the NFIP, which, thankfully, has the federal balance sheet behind it and will be able to take on that risk.”
He has already seen demand increase for flood insurance this year, partly due to “a hangover from Hurricane Ian.” He said it would take years before the property insurance industry realizes any benefits from the recently-passed legislation.
Burgess added that it is a good thing the NFIP exists because “I can guarantee you that there is not enough reinsurance capacity in the world for all those Florida policies to end up with private flood insurance.” He explained that what sets the two government-backed insurers apart is that the NFIP charges typical market rates.
Neptune was founded as a software company and utilizes machine learning and artificial intelligence to increase operational efficiency and decrease costs. Burgess hopes property insurance CEOs will start taking the same approach, as they must continuously raise rates to turn a profit.
“With the use of technology, Neptune has actually been able to make money for our reinsurers,” Burgess said. “Which has allowed us to continue to attract the capacity that the State of Florida needs.
“We’re continuing to add about 1,000 clients a week, and it’s great fun to be building an artificial intelligence company here in St. Pete.”
March 22, 2023at3:21 pm
I do not understand this article. I live on the 4th floor of an apartment building. I do not have insurance with Citizens. Does this affect me? If so, how & when.
The Frugal Philosopher
March 22, 2023at3:58 pm
““People should have flood – everyone in Florida should have flood insurance.” according to Burgess. As an insurance professional, would he recommend me, sitting at 20 feet about sea level in St. Pete (by design, not accident, and not in a special flood hazard zone) have flood insurance which would almost certainly never be triggered? Hmmmm.
IMO, that is a very broad statement to make. There are people living far higher than me in Florida (Mount Dora comes to mind), who, if they flood, everyone in Florida will be dead, and no insurers will be around . . . For me, I would not work with an insurance person who would suggest to me that I (being part of “everyone”) needs to purchase flood insurance. Although far more people should have it than do. And the people who are most at risk should pay the freight for their decision making — meaning more commensurate with the risk.
March 24, 2023at9:50 am
I am glad I do not live in a Florida Zone and have never flooded. What about people who don’t have a mortgage.??? I do not have to have any insurance as my home is free and clear. I don’t have citizens insurance but I do have home Owners insurance.
March 28, 2023at11:38 am
The Frugal Philosopher doesn’t note that Colorado, which has a much higher average elevation than Florida, has had severe flooding events at high elevation. This is usually related to a heavy and extended rainstorm event creating overflows for normal drainage. In fact, a very large percentage of FEMA flood claims come from areas where flood insurance risk is considered low and thus residents aren’t required it to get a federally guaranteed loan. I agree, the price for Mt Dora should (and is getting closer to) be appropriately lower than the rest of Florida, but the risk is not zero.