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Hurricane Ian's impact on the insurance market in Florida

Flooding after Hurricane Ian in the Spring Oaks neighborhood in Altamonte Springs. (photo: Amy Green/WMFE)
Flooding after Hurricane Ian in the Spring Oaks neighborhood in Altamonte Springs. (photo: Amy Green/WMFE)

Hurricane Ian brought flooding to Central Florida that many people haven’t experienced before, which damaged many homes. But, flood insurance is something you have to get before a storm.

Tasha Carter is Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate at the state Department of Financial Services. WMFE's Talia Blake spoke with her about how Ian may affect an already volatile property insurance market.

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Tasha Carter is Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate at the state Department of Financial Services.
(via: Tasha Carter)[/caption]

Getting Assistance

Hurricane Ian brought flooding to Central Florida that many residents have not previously experienced. Flood insurance must be purchased before a storm hits, but Tasha Carter, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate, said there are still options out there for those in need.

"They may be eligible to obtain assistance through FEMA," she said. "FEMA provides grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low cost loans to cover uninsured property losses for not only individuals, but for businesses as well."

On September 29, President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration for Florida. The disaster declaration allows the state to use federal funding to aid in the recovery process. Carter said that money will assist not only individual consumers and policyholders, but communities as well.

"Some of those dollars can be used to issue grants directly to impacted homeowners," she explained. "As well as providing grants and funding to the communities for debris removal, and any other type of services that are needed to aid in the response and recovery after the storm."

Individuals and business owners can visit disasterassitance.gov to find eligibility requirements and apply for assistance.

Impact on the market

Property Insurance companies have been leaving the state left and right leaving the market in peril. In August, state-backed Citizen's Property Insurance surpassed 1 million policies for the first time since 2014. 

Given the strength, size  and catastrophic effect of Hurricane Ian, Carter said it's going to result in a large number of insurance claims throughout the state, and officials have made steps to streamline that process.

"For example, the Office of insurance regulation is working with insurance companies to ensure they have the necessary resources to pay claims and protect their policyholders," she said. "Ensuring that they have implemented specific processes and procedures that will aid in adjusting those claims promptly and efficiently. And also streamline claimant claim payment processes, so consumers can begin the recovery process as quickly as possible."

In addition, she said there are things in place to protect policyholders as they assess damage from the storm. 

"The Office of Insurance Regulation also issued an emergency order, which temporarily suspends all planned policy cancellations or nonrenewals that has already been issued by insurance companies for two months," said Carter.

Also under the emergency order, insurance companies can not cancel policies for homeowners whose homes sustained damage for at least 90 days after their home has been repaired. " Because those actions are in effect for at least 60 days, it will also ensure that policyholders will be able to maintain their current coverage through the remainder of hurricane season," explained Carter.

Tasha's Top Things To Know

  • File a claim ASAP

The most important thing residents should be doing now is assessing the damage to their homes and properties as soon as it's safe to do so, that's according to Carter. She said if that damage is covered under your insurance policy, file a claim with your insurance company immediately.

"That's going to aid in getting that claims process initiated as quickly as possible, which will, of course, result in them navigating the claims process," said Carter. "And getting dollars into their hands in order to initiate those repairs so that they can get back into their homes."

  • Check your policy for additional coverage

Most homeowners' insurance policies include coverage for additional living expenses  that are incurred if you are not able to live in your home as a result of the damage, according to Carter.

"Those costs include paying for hotel stays, food and meals that you're having to purchase, (and) any other type of expenditures that you incur, as a result of having to live away from your home for an extended period of time," she explained.

  • Watch out for scams!

After a storm, homeowners should beware of fraud and solicitations. Carter said oftentimes neighborhoods are flooded with individuals, companies and/or contractors that are soliciting homeowners while they are vulnerable.

"It is very important for homeowners and consumers to be aware and ensure that before they sign any type of contract or any type of agreement, they are reading it in full," she said, "They have a full understanding of it. Don't get pressured into making any quick and rash decisions because someone is standing at your front door."

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to Central Florida Public Media. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with degrees in both Broadcast Journalism and Psychology. While at UCF, she was an intern for Central Florida’s public affairs show, Intersection. She joined on as Morning Edition Host in 2019. In 2022, Ms. Blake was appointed to the Florida Association of Broadcast Journalist’s board of directors.