Several Florida home builders have lost business because of the state's hurricane-induced insurance crisis. Unable to find private homeowners' insurance, some buyers have bought coverage through the more expensive state insurer. That extra cost, on top of rising interest rates and home pushed homes beyond the means buyers, keeping them from closing.
Eight storms in two years generated $38 billion in losses, leaving the state's insurance unable to buy enough re-insurance to protect against future losses. Many companies are writing fewer policies and charging more for the ones they do keep. Other companies have pulled out of the state, whereas others have gone out of business, leaving the state-backed insurance company to take over the policies.
But at least Florida homeowners have a source for insurance, says Bob Lotane, spokesman for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Many of the state's businesses are facing the same problems finding commercial insurance without the state's safety net, says Lotane.
“We kind of saw it coming, but we didn't know it was going to be this bad,” says Lotane. “Worst case scenarios are that businesses have to lay off employees because of the costs of insurance, or they have to relocate, or they have to shut [their] doors. If this happens in any significant way, it affects our economy.”
One potential solution would be to create a state insurance pool of last resort for businesses that can't find private insurance, as the state did for homeowners. “But we don't want to supplant the private sector, and we don't want to create another monster,” says Lotane.
A better solution: “We need a few years of good weather,” he says.