Tens of thousands of homeowners who were pushed out of Citizens Property Insurance for a private carrier since 2014 are finding themselves changing insurance companies yet again.
In 2014 and 2015, just over 76,000 policies were moved from Citizens to a Pinellas Park company called Mount Beacon Insurance Company. But that company is no longer writing active policies in Florida and was given authority by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulations to transfer policies to a Sarasota-based insurance company called Florida Specialty Insurance Co.
Under the terms of that deal, Florida Specialty is required to issue short-term policies to all Mount Beacon policyholders that give them identical coverage and premiums for the remainder of their policy.
Mount Beacon is among dozens of what's known as take-out companies, insurance companies that are taking on Citizen Property Insurance customers as that quasi-government agency is pushed to cut its policies.
Since 2012, the state has been aggressively reducing the number of property owners covered by Citizens. After a flurry of hurricanes and tropical storms in the mid 2000s, Citizens exploded in size as major insurers cut back in Florida. Citizens, which was created to be the state's insurer of last resort, became the state's largest insurance company with 1.5 million policies.
That put political pressure on lawmakers to lure private companies back into the market and shrink Citizens. The more policies Citizens carries, the greater the potential financial hit on everyone in the state who has insurance. Under state law, Citizens can bill even non-Citizens policyholders if it runs out of cash to pay damage claims after a major storm.
Citizens has trimmed down to fewer than 500,000 by using sometimes controversial methods to shift policy holders to private carriers that have unfamiliar names.
Florida Specialty is instructing agents and customers to go to their website for more information about the move. The site is www.floridaspecialty.com.