If you own a home in Florida, you are well aware that Insurance rates are exorbitant despite the LACK of storm activity over the past 10 years.  In fact, according to a recent news report in the Tampa Bay Times, Floridians pay more than double the national average for property insurance.

Property insurance is such an important part of home ownership in Florida, it can’t be ignored in hopes that the huge premium will go away.  Florida is the land of natural disasters.  Obviously you need to be concerned with hurricanes, lightning strikes, the occasional wild fire or tornado and of Course, the state’s Dirty word: Sinkholes.  If you have a mortgage you probably have no choice whether you buy a policy or not.  Until very recently, you were likely unable to find insurers in the Private market and were forced to buy insurance for your home through Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.  Citizens is of course run by the State of Florida and originally intended to be the insurer of last resort.  Only very recently have new insurance companies started buying policies from Citizens or otherwise offering coverage to the public.

You will never know how much you needed the insurance until you don’t have it after a disaster.    We all have to buy it, but many of us don’t understand it!  So, if you are guilty of simply receiving your insurance policy and throwing it into a filing drawer, I am directing my comments directly to you!

When you purchase a Homeowners policy from a new insurer, generally you will receive your policy which tells you what is covered and what is specifically excluded from coverage. Several types of Policies exist so READ YOUR POLICY.  Attached to that policy, you will receive your policy declarations page which show you the coverages purchased, any additional coverages you buy, the allocation of the portion of your premium paid for the different coverages, as well as the maximum limit of money for which each component of coverage is insured.  If you read your policy and don’t understand what is covered (or not covered), I strongly encourage you to contact your agent that services your policy.

Each year your policy will renew on the anniversary of the policy inception date unless the Insurer cancels or non-renews your coverage.  Florida law mandates that you be provided notice from your insurer of a non-renewal well in advance of the expiration of the one year policy term to allow an insured time to try to find replacement coverage.  When a policy is renewed, you will receive a new Declaration of coverage page with any changes to your original policy that will be effective for the new policy term.  Those “endorsements” can sometimes remove coverages you originally had in the last policy but rarely add coverage unless you actively purchase more insurance.  Regardless, there are usually several changes for each renewal of the policy.  It is extremely important to review your coverage each year upon renewal to make sure you have adequate insurance BEFORE a disaster occurs.

On a Final note, if you are a Citizens insured and received a letter with an offer from another insurance company to assume your policy and leave Citizens.  Be aware that you do have the ability to “opt-out” and remain a Citizens Insured.  However, before you choose, do some homework and make an educated decision by researching the new insurer on the Office of Insurance Regulation website at  Currently 27 Insurers are actively participating in the “take-out” program with Citizens.

The time to understand your coverage is BEFORE you need it.  Hurricane season Starts June 1.  Are you prepared?