MIAMI - The governing board of Florida's last-resort insurer voted to raise 2014 windstorm premiums an average of 7.5 percent statewide.
Citizens Property Insurance South Florida customers, especially in coastal communities, could see a hike up to 10 percent, just below a state-imposed cap.
The board, meeting in Miami Wednesday morning, also raised rates more significantly for sinkhole coverage, especially for customers in Florida's central and west. Board members reported Citizens is financially "catching up" in recovering the costs of sinkhole claims.
"We're playing catch up," said Carlos Lacasa, the chairman of the Citizens' board. "Private insurers charge substantially more money. Our rates were frozen from 2007 to 2010."
Florida's absence of major hurricane damage since 2005 has allowed the state pool to amass more than $6 billion in surplus funds. However, insurance premium rates are based on future risk assessment, not past experience.
"For years, I've been trying to find out why a four-bedroom, three-bathroom masonry house cost in insurance premiums three times the amount of up north, the same house," added State Rep. Frank Artiles.
Reese Williams said his annual windstorm premium for his 80-year-old home in Miami Beach is up to $9,000 -- and he gets a discount for hurricane shutters.
"In my retirement, I'm working almost full-time just to be able to pay the bills," he said. "It's nothing what I expected when I first moved in down here."
The board's rate hike must still be approved by the state's Office of Insurance Regulation.
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