FL Insurance Commissioner Weighs In On Water Loss Claims, Assignment Of Benefits

Jan 10, 2017

Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier.
Credit Florida Channel

Rates in Florida’s property insurance market are in the midst of a broad upward shift.  State insurance officials are pointing to the rising cost of water damages.

Property insurers are pushing for changes to the state’s assignment of benefits laws.  Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier says allowing home repair or restoration companies to negotiate directly with insurance companies is driving rate increases.

“There’s a lot more water losses in the state and that’s impacting the profitability of the companies,” Altmaier explains.  “This is concerning because when something like that happens they lose the ability to build their policyholder surplus which protects policyholders from catastrophic losses.”

“They will also look at certain regions of the state,” he goes on, “and they may determine that they no longer wish to write in that region of the state because the losses are too extreme.”

Insurers argue water claims associated with assignment of benefits are spiraling out of control.  The system allows repair and restoration companies to negotiate directly with insurers, and supporters say it helps level the playing the field between insurance companies and homeowners.

The Office of Insurance Regulation's comparison of rate filings over the past three years.
Credit OIR Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Presentation / Office of Insurance Regulation

Altmaier says the practice's impact is showing up industry-wide.

In 2014 and 2015 the majority of insurers in Florida filed for rate decreases with the office of insurance regulation.  But in 2016, Altmaier says the vast majority—almost 74 percent—of companies filed rate increases.

“If this trend of water losses continue we’re going to continue to see companies that make rate filings for increases as opposed to decreases,” Altmaier says.  “We’re going to continue to see companies that in light of rate increases are going to look at certain regions of the state in which it’s no longer favorable for them to write, they’re going to start withdrawing from those areas of the state.”

In recent years measures placing new restrictions on a common water loss procedure called assignment of benefits have failed to gain support.