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Florida Senate bill could spell big changes for state’s insurer of last resort

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(The Center Square) — Florida’s last resort property insurer could face significant changes after a new bill was advanced this week.

Senate Bill 1716 is sponsored by state Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, and would make significant changes to the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation by merging the corporation’s multiple accounts into one.

The bill would revise the requirements for certain types of coverage by Citizens and would delete provisions relating to emergency assessments if a deficit has been projected.

Property insurance in the Sunshine State has been a point of contention for several years, as prices continue to rise to the point some Floridians are being forced to sell and leave the state as they can no longer afford insurance.

During the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance meeting on Monday, Boyd said that the bill’s overall goal is to limit the exposure to Florida from the significant policy count of Citizens.

According to Boyd, the bill does several things including allowing additional carriers to do business in Florida while permitting eligible surplus lines insurers, under certain conditions, to take second homes out of Citizens Property Insurance.

Insurer conditions include the requirement to have an “A” rating or higher, as well as use a Florida-based surplus lines broker. The bill would also facilitate the restructuring of Citizens into a single account.

The bill would allow Citizens the authority to apply for patents, and trademarks, with Boyd remarking that this would protect the organization’s intellectual property that was developed in-house.

The removal of second homes from Citizens would also be allowed if the legislation passes while making non-primary residents ineligible to return to Citizens.

According to Christine Ashburn, Chief of Communications, Legislative and External Affairs at Citizens, there are between 45,000 and 60,000 second homes currently insured with the organization.

To be declared a primary residence according to Florida statutes, the property must be owner-occupied for at least nine months of the year or be rented to a tenant for at least the same amount of time.

“It’s just another avenue for homeowners or second homeowners, specifically, to have access to the private market and take that burden off of Citizens, which is ultimately going to cost taxpayers money at the end of the day,” Boyd said.

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