“The risk of increased foreclosures is rising in Florida”
– Laura Wagner, Floridians For Honest Lending
Laura Wagner, Executive Director of Floridians for Honest Lending, stated, “We’re nine days out from what is expected to be an especially active hurricane season. Right now, the risk of increased foreclosures is rising in Florida due to double and triple-digit increases in insurance premiums, increased property taxes, and the flight of insurance companies from the state, which could back many homeowners into force-placed insurance policies that provide little coverage and which many homeowners on a fixed income have no way of affording. Expensive force-placed insurance policies always lead to increases in foreclosures. The Legislature must act this week to stabilize the insurance market.”
Insurance Reform Expert Warns of Limited Options for Short-Term Fixes
In the Solutions video released today, Paul Handerhan, President of FAIR, warned that the Legislature has limited options to fix the crisis in the near term but needed to act quickly in the interest of stopping the bleeding now and working to stabilize the market for the long-term. Mr. Handerhan encouraged the Legislature to reform Florida’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, urging them “to provide some type of framework to provide reinsurance capacity below the Cat Fund at a rate that makes it economically feasible for these insurance companies to continue to do business without having the threat of going insolvent.”
Long-Term Fixes: Legislature Must “Crack Down” on Bad Behavior Hurting Consumers
In the long-term, Mr. Handerhan stated that the Legislature should tackle the rising costs of reinsurance, which would in turn help lower primary insurance rates. Specifically, he mentioned the “bad actors” gaming the system. “What the legislature needs to do is they need to look at every single stakeholder group and say, listen, are these guys gaming the system? And then craft legislation to crack down on those behaviors.” Mr. Handerhan stated this would be the best thing the Legislature can do to send a signal to the risk capital markets and to the reinsurance markets that “gaming the system will no longer be tolerated in Florida.”
Availability of Little-Known Federal Aid For Homeowners
Laura Wagner urged Florida homeowners at risk of losing their homes to apply for Homeowner Assistance Funds. “We want all Floridians to know that the American Rescue Plan allocated $676 million dollars to Florida homeowners to help them pay for housing-related expenses they may have fallen behind on due to the pandemic. This funding is available for expenses including property insurance, mortgage payments, property taxes, homeowner association fees, and internet,” she stated. Florida homeowners can apply for this funding through a portal set up by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity at www.FLHomeownerAssistance.org. Applicants who need assistance applying can call 1-833-987-8997.
Insurance rates that grow double or triple digits every year put an especially hard burden on fixed-income homeowners and renters, like veterans and the elderly. Florida ranks third in the nation for the number of Veterans Administration loans (with 120,964) and third for the overall number of mortgage borrowers.
The connection between foreclosures and property insurance:
All homeowners with a loan are required to hold property insurance. Insurance providers leaving the state puts policyholders on a tight timeline. In order to secure a new quote, homeowners must supply a wind mitigation report less than 5 years old. If the homeowner is interested in a quote from Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the quasi-governmental insurance provider of last resort, there are further requirements. If a borrower’s insurance policy lapses for any reason, the mortgage servicer will implement a force-placed insurance policy. These policies are often two to three times more expensive than a traditional insurance policy and have far less coverage. Higher premiums from a force-placed policy will lead to a foreclosure filing.
Elderly Borrowers At Particular Risk
Floridians For Honest Lending’s research shows a particular risk with Florida’s growing population of elderly borrowers who took out reverse mortgages. There are only a few requirements for reverse mortgage borrowers, one is to maintain property insurance. Increases in property insurance will force these borrowers to make hard decisions. An inability for the borrower to pay the higher premiums from a force-placed policy will lead to a foreclosure filing.
About Floridians For Honest Lending:
Floridians For Honest Lending is a statewide not-for-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization devoted to reducing the number of unnecessary foreclosures in Florida. The organization is focused on protecting borrowers from unfair and unscrupulous practices. To learn more, visit our website at www.honestlendingfl.org.
About Federal Association for Insurance Reform (FAIR):
FAIR is a non-partisan, non-profit based out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida that is dedicated to ensuring consumers have access to quality insurance coverage for an affordable price, through balanced public policy. To learn more, visit our website at www.federalinsurancereform.org.