Hurricane Irma could further inflate Citizens’ premiums in South Florida

The big state-run insurer's premiums already were headed higher before Irma tore through the Caribbean

Barry Gilway, Citizens' president and CEO
Barry Gilway, Citizens' president and CEO

Before Hurricane Irma began approaching the state, South Florida policyholders of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. already were likely to pay higher premiums, and the big state-run insurer may charge even more in Irma’s destructive wake.

In August, Citizens CEO Barry Gilway said policyholders with homes in Miami-Dade and Broward counties probably would see a 10 percent increase in their premiums this year, due in part to water-damage claims. Gilway estimated that average premiums would rise in Miami-Dade to $3,219 from $2,926 and in Broward to $2,926 from $2,390.

That was before Hurricane Irma ripped through the Caribbean region as a Category 5 storm. Gilway expects as many as 100,000 claims due to Irma.

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Robert Hartwig, an economist and insurance expert at the University of South Carolina predicted that Citizens will charge higher premiums due to Irma because the powerful Atlantic hurricane on record poses a severe threat to coastal areas, “where Citizens’ market share is greatest.”

Citizens has 218,000 policies covering property in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County, accounting for 15 percent of all policies in the three counties, compared to 41 percent in 2011.

The insurer has a $7.5 billion surplus, enough cover a surge in claims for damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma, experts told Associated Press, but Irma-related claims also could herald higher premiums in future years. [Associated Press] Mike Seemuth