'Florida homeowners are no longer silent victims of the state's insurance crisis. From the Keys to the Panhandle, they've mobilized.
In Miami-Dade County, they have launched a major petition drive to tell lawmakers in Tallahassee that soaring rates are choking their personal finances and the quality of their lives. In Pembroke Park, mobile-home owners are putting some new ideas on the table. In Brevard and Collier counties, groups of home and business owners have been hard at work crafting their own insurance solutions.
''Next year, I won't have any savings,'' said Zenobia Lopez of Biscayne Gardens, who signed the Miami-Dade petition. ``Where am I supposed to come up with $5,000 again? We need to do something.'''
Wow - sounds like a grass-roots drive. But it isn't.
'Dynamic Public Adjusters Group, a Kendall-area company that helps homeowners try to get higher returns on insurance claims, started the petition in September under the name Floridians in Action. The group is now beginning to put together a board of directors so its work can continue long after the petition has been delivered.
Some of what the petition seeks: rate relief, tougher statewide building codes and a strong lobbying effort for a national catastrophe fund.'
And here's an interesting idea from the owner's of mobile homes. Very interesting.
'Meanwhile, a group of mobile-home owners in Broward County's Pembroke Park isn't shy about putting new ideas on the table, even if some lawmakers sometimes are. They would like to see auto insurers cover mobile homes since they now insure recreational vehicles and boats.
''If the auto insurers would cover the mobile homes, we could alleviate the burden on Citizens Property Insurance,'' said Michael Sousy, Pembroke Park's code enforcement and community liaison officer, who has helped organize the mobile-home owners.
Citizens is the state-run insurer of last resort. But for many homeowners, like folks who own mobile homes, older houses or condos in coastal areas, Citizens is the only insurer. With nearly 1.3 million policies -- nearly half of those in South Florida -- it's the largest insurer in the state.'
Is it sad, pathetic, or just plain wrong that the insurer of "last resort" is paid for by the government (i.e.; you and I) and has become the #1 insurer in Florida? Note: "All of the above" is a qualified answer to that question.
'Residents insured by Citizens are particularly concerned these days because a new state law requires the insurer to boost its reserves rapidly so it has enough money on hand to cover claims from a massive storm. That means big increases over the next three years. The first one is a 55.8 percent hike planned for March.
Last week, Citizens' board of governors decided to table the increase until after the special session. The board is hoping there will be some changes.
So are other groups around the state.
''Our biggest fear is that the proposals that come out of the special session won't be comprehensive enough,'' said Sherri Hudson, a mortgage banker in Brevard County who has helped organize a group of consumers and business owners called Insurance Reform Now.'
I think it's great that everyone is looking for solutions. Unfortunately, somebody has to pay - and I'm still not seeing how we get around that.
'In recent days, Gov.-elect Charlie Crist, Rubio and several other key legislators have said the planned Citizens rate increase is too onerous and the new provision in the insurance bill requiring the increases needs to be modified or possibly scrapped.
Alex Sink, the state's newly elected chief financial officer, and some lawmakers have also said the state needs a stronger consumer advocate to challenge rate increases. Other lawmakers have called for expanding the state grant program for strengthening homes and allowing consumers to increase deductibles.'