Citizens Property Insurance urges state to allow another round of rate hikes for 2014

Local homeowner rates would rise between 2-10.7%

TAMPA, Fla. - "The way I see it - this is racketeering," Mark Kalutho told state regulators.

Kalutho lives in Largo and has a policy with Citizens Property Insurance. On Tuesday, he attended a public hearing held by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation to discuss Citizens proposal to raise its rates in 2014.

"This insurance is just blood-letting, leeches," Kalutho said to the panel.

His comments were by far the most colorful of the night, but others in attendance - including former State Representative, now Pasco County Tax Collector, Mike Fasano -  shared his sentiment.

Fasano told state regulators to deny Citizens Property Insurance the rate hikes they're proposing.

"Citizens has already raised rates above and beyond 10,20,30 percent over the last year on many homeowners in the Tampa Bay area. Don't grant them this rate increase," said Fasano.

The current proposal on the table would increase the average homeowner policy statewide by 6.6%. Here in the Tampa Bay area, the rates would rise somewhere between 2% - 10.7% depending on where a person lives. Typically, the closer they are to the coast the higher the rate.

State law does not allow Citizens to raise rates on most coverage more than 10 percent a year. However, that cap doesn't apply to sinkhole coverage.

Citizens is proposing a 20 percent sinkhole rate increase for those in Pasco and Hernando Counties and a 50% increase in Hillsborough County. According to the company, that would mean an additional $338 a year in Hernando, $366 in Pasco, and $191 in Hillsborough.

"We're trying to get to the point where our rates are actuarially sound and our rates are where they should be so we won't have to ask all Floridians to chip in after a storm," said Citizens Property Insurance spokesman Michael Peltier.

"We're basically a storm away from having our surplus cut to zero and starting from scratch."

But what Citizens called "actuarially sound" others are calling simply unfair.

"Citizens is asking for another rate increase, along with what they've already increased, it's unconscionable," Fasano said.

The Office of Insurance Regulation will decide on the rate increase during the next several weeks.

Those policyholders who were unable to make the public hearing may email their comments or concerns to ratehearings@floir.com. They are being asked to include "Citizens" in the subject line of their email.

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