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Facing the 2010 hurricane season without property reform

Today we find ourselves at the start of what is predicted to be another active storm season following our governor’s latest veto of the much needed property reform legislation.

Where does that leave us as policyholders? Ultimately, we are left with fewer options, and the remaining options will arguably be provided by less financially secure carriers. The insurance companies available to us as Floridians are unknown entities to new residents of our state. They are familiar with the big names who have written their homeowner and business policies for years such as The Hartford, Chubb and Westfield.

As Floridians, we have grown accustomed to buying policies from the unknowns with price as our main concern. On average, we’re happy as premiums have continued the downward trend for years. But we are not so happy considering the ability of these carriers to remain solvent and pay claims also has been on the downward slide for an equal period of time.

The legislation that “never was” would have helped insurance companies and made Florida a more friendly state in which to do business. When margins are reduced to the point of limiting success and encouraging failure, it is no longer a “us” versus “them” scenario as we are all in the same boat. To confirm that statement, many readers can attest to the headaches associated with having your home previously insured with a failed carrier. Not only do you have to go through the underwriting process again, but shelling out another year’s worth of insurance premiums sometimes only a few months after renewing with the failed carrier is tough to swallow, to say the least.

For the most part, we have been lucky as the carriers we have chosen to represent are still hanging in there. But a number of new carriers in Florida have failed in the past few years, even without a major storm hitting the balance sheet. This has caused additional work and expense for consumers, financial institutions and agents across our state.

There are no guarantees with any carrier, but doing some research, asking questions and partnering with an agent who takes the time to ask you questions and to explain your options is a good start on making a solid choice when one is available. Hopefully we will dodge another bullet this storm season and have yet another shot at meaningful reform next year.

Anthony D. Smith, an insurance agent with Smith, Reed, Osmond LLC in Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 792-3300.

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