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New Florida property insurance company picks up nearly 200,000 homeowners from insolvent companies

UPC is the tenth property insurance company in Florida to go insolvent in the last three years
Slide
Posted at 5:40 AM, Feb 23, 2023

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — United Property & Casualty Insurance (UPC) is the 10th property insurance company in Florida to enter receivership in the last three years, meaning they don’t have enough funding to pay out claims.

As a result, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) declared the company insolvent last week.

In such a volatile market, it's hard to imagine anyone would want to start a property insurance company in Florida, but a new company in Tampa has already become one of the bigger providers, taking on nearly 200,000 policies from companies going under.

Florida's tenth property insurance company to enter receivership

"I thought, 'Oh my God… you're a new company and you have a once-in-a-lifetime catastrophe type of thing, and are they going to have the reserves to pay for everything?'" Cape Coral Homeowner Dave Stevens said he thought when he heard Hurricane Ian was barreling towards the Central Gulf Coast.

His property insurance company, St. John's, had filed bankruptcy in early 2022, and he was one of the 100,000 policies picked up by Slide.

"I knew that there were going to be mass insolvencies in Florida, so we raised a tremendous amount of capital to really kind of capitalize on market opportunities and provide new solutions to the homeowners who are in need of those solutions," explained Bruce Lucas, CEO of Slide Insurance.

Damaged homes

Lucas is the former founder of Heritage Insurance, which is now a publicly traded company with more than 150,000 residential policies.

He started Slide in March, just after St John's went into liquidation. It was one of six companies to go bankrupt last year, largely due to losses from lawsuits.

Stevens considers himself one of the lucky ones.

"We had a refrigerator with food in it for ten days with no power and the smell, you know, you can imagine when you walk in, it was unbelievable... It just permeated everything," Stevens exclaimed.

Hurricane Ian damaged his roof, and the smell from the fridge ruined most of his furniture, but Slide replaced it within months.

Stevens said many of his neighbors are still waiting to even hear back from their insurance companies regarding open claims.

"You can see the roof has been completely repaired," Stevens showed ABC Action News. "There's a lot of tarps on the roofs down here, and mine's completely done now."

"We were able to get out to losses faster, adjust those losses, and pay insurance at a record rate," Lucas exclaimed. "We have the highest closure rate of in claims in the state at around 94%, whereas the state averages in the 70s."

Lucas said Slide is based on a "data-driven underwriting methodology," meaning they rely on artificial intelligence and machine-learning techniques to process data and risk to make decisions on policies.

"It's a different approach than what you've seen on traditional insurance. It's working so far, and we're pretty optimistic about the future," he added.

Slide also got into the market knowing new legislation would be coming, according to Lucas.

After two legislative special sessions on property insurance in 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill to eliminate fee multipliers and curb runaway litigation.

On February 1, Slide picked up more than 72,000 policies from UPC, giving another 18,000 policies the option to renew policies with them.

UPC had announced last year that they were pulling out of the state, but they didn't make it that far.

ABC Action News In-Depth Reporter Stassy Olmos spoke with the Insurance Information Institute in early February after hearing concerns from homeowners who felt UPC was ignoring their claims. Spokesperson Mark Friedlander said it was a sign that the company was not doing well and OIR needed to look into it.

"They are dragging their feet on thousands of claims across the state. We're hearing similar stories from homeowners and insurance agents about no response from the company. Do they have the funds or don't they have the funds?" Friedlander exclaimed.

On February 16, UPC entered receivership.

hurricane damages

The OIR referral document states that after millions of dollars in underwriting losses over the years, the company did not have enough funding to cover losses from Hurricane Ian.

OIR data shows that UPC had about 138,000 policies in force when Ian made landfall in September.

"We really went through the UPC policies in a lot of detail, and a lot of policies that they had had open damage claims from Hurricane Ian," Lucas explained. "So our underwriting manual won't let us take those policies."

In an October release, UPC estimated about 30,000 claims with a loss of a billion dollars from Ian.

This means that if they do end up in liquidation, these claims will go to the Florida Insurance Guarantee Association (FIGA), a nonprofit funded by insurance companies and taxpayers to handle claims of any company that is liquidated.

FIGA CEO Corey Neal said that they are preparing in case they need to assume UPC policies, adding that FIGA has about 66% of claims closed from previous insolvencies, with about 8,000 still open.

In a statement, a spokesperson for OIR said that UPC had about 56,000 policies when they entered receivership.

"As part of UPC's orderly run-off plan, all affected policyholders received at least 120 days notice of cancellation prior to UPC being referred to receivership by OIR. OIR encourages consumers to contact their agent immediately to begin finding alternate coverage to fit their needs. Consumers with an open claim or unrepaired damage to their property should contact their agent."

According to OIR's hurricane claims reporting, Ian resulted in about 475,000 residential damage claims; 75% are closed, leaving about 60,000 still open.

We reached out to UPC representatives prior to their insolvency but have still not heard back.

As for Slide, their books are now open for new business, and Lucas said their rates are in line with the rest of the market.

"I can tell you that we've received, just in the first few weeks, somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-8,000 quotes from agents," Lucas said. "We have a couple of thousand appointed agents right now, we have several thousand more agents requesting an appointment because there's nowhere else to go, and the legacy Florida carriers, they're going to remain closed for a while. And so we're just happy that we are here. We're at the front end of the new legislation."

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