The state-run insurance pool is getting ready to move second homes, vacation homes and most investment properties off its books.
An insurance bill passed in May requires Citizens Property Insurance to stop offering windstorm coverage to non-homestead properties after March 1, 2007. The aim of the law is to reduce risk and slow the growth for the insurer of last resort.
The one exception: Lower-value rental properties that are rented will be grandfathered in. These properties must be valued at under $200,000 and have a tenant with a signed lease for at least seven months. If owners of non-homestead properties can’t find coverage from another insurer, they can stay with Citizens. However, they will be charged a 25 percent surcharge.
Last week, Citizens started sending letters to the residents with windstorm policies throughout the state to determine which policies cover non-homestead properties. The letters have startled homeowners as well as county property appraisers. So far, 180,000 letters have gone out.
Since it had no need before, Citizens routinely didn’t document whether properties received a homestead exemption on property taxes. It’s now asking owners to provide proof of homestead exemption.
“The problem is that the information [Citizens now has] isn’t current,” said Rocky Scott, Citizens’ spokesman. Nearly half of the 924,578 properties where Citizens provides hurricane insurance are in South Florida. It covers more than 1.2 million properties statewide.
Robert Wolfe, who works with Lori Parrish, the Broward County property appraiser, said the office has been flooded with calls from homeowners worried that Citizens might have wrong information about their homestead status. The Broward Property Appraiser’s office has posted a link on its website to help residents verify their homestead property and provide proof to Citizens. Residents can find their homestead information on their 2006 property tax bills.
The letters from Citizens include a form that policyholders can fill out and return with proof of homestead exemption.
SOURCE: Miami Herald