a laptop computer sitting on top of a desk next to stacks of coins
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation is proposing an average 14% rate hike on premiums for policyholders throughout Florida. The request must be approved by the state Office of Insurance Regulation. CONTRIBUTED

Florida Keys property owners who are insured through Citizens Property Insurance Corporation could witness another double-digit increase when they renew their policies in 2025.  

At a June 19 meeting, the nine-member Citizens Board of Governors unanimously approved a request for an array of rate hikes, which average 14% statewide for homeowners and those living in condominium units.

The state Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) must approve the rate increase proposals before they would take effect Jan. 1, 2025. A public hearing is expected before OIR makes a decision. 

In the Florida Keys, roughly 20,000 homes, duplexes, condo units and commercial properties are insured through Citizens. Those policies range from coverage for wind-only damage from hurricanes and tropical storms to coverage for a multitude of perils.

Per the current proposal, more than 18,000 Monroe County homeowners and condominium owners, whose current average premiums cost roughly $5,000, would see a 16.6% bump in their rates. It’s the second highest increase in the state; 480 policyholders in Glades County are facing an 18.1% hike in their rates. 

While state law caps base rate hikes to 14%, Mel Montagne, the president of Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe (FIRM), said added fees and surcharges push the increase to about 16%.

“It’s very disappointing to see the upward spiral,” said Montagne, who continues to lobby state officials to institute a 10% rate increase cap for Monroe County. “We have major issues here with housing and all these guys can do is pump increases.”

Tasha Carter, Florida’s insurance consumer advocate, is planning to participate in OIR’s public hearing on the rate proposals to determine how it affects policyholders throughout the state and the Keys. Created by the Florida Legislature in 1992, the insurance consumer advocate actively engages with consumers and works with stakeholders to find consumer-focused solutions on all insurance matters.

“While Citizens is statutorily required to increase its rates, and I understand the importance of the corporation being actuarially sound, my goal during the hearing is to ensure that all options were considered to have the least impact on policyholders,” Carter said in a statement to Keys Weekly.

Considered an insurer of last resort, Citizens Insurance provides coverage to property owners who are in good faith and can’t obtain a policy through the private market. Citizens Insurance is required by law to charge rates sufficient enough to fund liabilities, all while complying with the glide path which caps rate increases at 14% in 2025. 

Officials with Citizens Insurance say Citizens’ premium rates remain “well below” other private insurance companies providing coverage. 

“Eighteen companies are actively writing policies in Florida,” said Brian Donovan, chief actuary for Citizens. 

Citizens Insurance officials say the insurance market continues to improve due in part to the state Legislature’s approval of Senate Bill 2-A in 2022. Taking effect in June 2023, the legislation eliminated assignment of benefits under residential or commercial property insurance policies. Litigation costs also were addressed through the removal of one-way attorney fees. 

On top of that, Citizens chief financial officer Jennifer Montero said roughly 360,000 policyholders were moved to other private market insurance companies. It’s due to the state’s efforts to move policyholders away from Citizens when a private insurer offers them a premium that’s within 20% of their Citizens premium. 

Tim Cerio, Citizens CEO, said policies could be below a million before the end of the year. 

“That’s all because of the success of the reforms,” Cerio said. 

Rate hikes, however, are straining many single-family homes and renters who continue to see their rents rise by the year. During the 2021 legislative session, state legislators approved a glidepath which capped annual rate increases for the ensuing five years. By 2026, rates can increase as high as 15%. 

Those who renewed their policies with Citizens in 2024 were forced to pull more money out of their accounts, following the state Office of Insurance’s approval last December of a 10.7% increase on wind-only policies for primary homes. Condo owners with a wind-only policy had a 5% to 14.9% increase in their rates. Citizens Insurance was initially seeking a higher average rate hike until Florida Insurance Commissioner Michael Yaworksy directed Citizens to calculate new, reduced rate increases across the state. 

More dollars could be coming out of the pockets of policyholders if OIR approves Citizens’ request later this year. Montagne said Citizens’ rate calculations fail to reflect Monroe County’s rigorous building standards.

The board’s approval could also see non-primary residences facing increases as high as 50%. Secondary homeowners aren’t subject to a glidepath, meaning their rate hikes could go beyond 14% when they renew in 2025.

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures in Western New York. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 5-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club. When he's not working, he's busy chasing his son, Lucas, around the house and enjoying time with family.