Tuesday, February 6, 2007

More Insurance News

From The Miami Herald--

Hartford Insurance to cut residential and commercial policies


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Feb. 5, 2007 The Hartford Insurance Group has notified state regulators that it plans to cut its commercial and residential property insurance business in Florida in the next 18 months.


Two other insurers, Tower Hill Insurance Group and American Strategic Insurance, are paring back coverage.


In a letter sent to agents Thursday, Tower Hill said that as a result of the emergency order signed by Gov. Charlie Crist late Monday, it won't write any new business in 16 coastal counties -- from Brevard County on the east coast of the state and south of Pasco County on the west coast. That includes all three South Florida counties.


The emergency order "was designed to place additional restrictions on insurers beyond those originally intended by the state's insurance law that resulted from the Legislature's special session held in January," Tower Hill said in its letter to agents.


American Strategic is not writing policies for homes built before 1995.


In the meantime, agents say they are getting inquiries from clients who have policies with rates that are more than 25 percent higher than what is being charged by Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run insurance pool. The new insurance law passed by the Legislature in the special session nearly two weeks ago allows homeowners who are quoted these higher rates to opt for a Citizens policy.


Some policyholders currently with The Hartford companies in Florida might eventually find themselves buying coverage from Citizens if they can't find an insurer in the private market. The Hartford companies will begin non-renewing policies in August 2008.


The Hartford, which has 10 subsidiaries writing commercial policies in Florida, will pare about 24 percent of its commercial coverage, further evidence that the state's commercial market is still in a crisis. These will be small and mid-sized business policies. It said about 126 of the 141 agencies that it works with in Florida will be affected.


It will shed nearly 23,500 commercial policies. Dropping these policies will represent a $118 million reduction in the commercial premium the company writes in Florida.


The company didn't specify how many homeowner policies will eventually not be renewed. These will be policies mostly through through agents. However, it will continue serving more than 80,000 AARP members with homeowners and other personal property insurance through the company's national program with AARP.


Like other insurers who have cut back their exposure in Florida since the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, Hartford said this was business decision that "will help to ensure that we meet our future obligations to the thousands of policyholders we continue to serve" in this state.


In a letter to Florida's insurance commissioner, Kevin McCarty, the insurance company said its current commercial exposure in Florida exceeded "its acceptable limit" and didn't allow it to make a sustainable long-term profit from its personal property insurance business in this state.


"We are not leaving the state," reiterated Joseph Loparco, a company spokesman.


Hartford submitted its plan to reduce some of its business in Florida to the Office of Insurance Regulation on Friday.


It won't run afoul of the emergency rule put in place Tuesday that prevents insurers from canceling or nonrenewing policies for 90 days. Regulators put in place the changes mandated by the massive insurance reform bill passed by lawmakers last week.


"We would prefer the company would be increasing their exposure rather than cutting it back, but it's doing so in a very orderly fashion," said Bob Lotane, a spokesman for the Office of Insurance Regulation.


The company says most customers whose policies won't be renewed will have 18 to 30 months to find a new insurer.


Copyright 2007 The Miami Herald, Beatrice E. Garcia. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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