TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Dec. 1, 2017 – Citizens Property Insurance appears to have emerged from the 2017 Atlantic storm season on firm financial footing, even with an anticipated $1.2 billion hit from Hurricane Irma.
Policyholders of the state-backed insurer have filed 62,000 Irma-related claims, including more than 42,400 from Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties. Nearly two-thirds of the claims had been closed as the annual hurricane season ended Thursday.
Citizens anticipates over the next year its number of claims from Irma, which made landfall Sept. 10, will grow to as many as 70,000, with $1.2 billion in policyholder damages. But Citizens pointed to steps taken to build up money and buy reinsurance – essentially backup insurance for insurers – that helped it weather Irma.
"With $6.4 billion in surplus and substantial reinsurance coverage, Citizens remains fiscally sound after responding quickly and effectively to Hurricane Irma," Citizens Chairman Chris Gardner said in a prepared statement. "But we still have much work to do. Our focus will remain on our policyholders until we have satisfactorily handled all outstanding claims."
Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier said about half of the closed claims have resulted in payments. Many policyholders who did not receive payments reported damages that failed to reach their hurricane deductibles.
For those receiving money, the average residential claim payment has been $13,040.
As of Nov. 13, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reported that Irma had caused more than 830,000 property-insurance claims for insurers across the state, with estimated insured losses of $5.88 billion.
Just over 38 percent of the claims had been closed with payments made. Another 26 percent were closed without any money changing hands.
The state office is expected to update the post-storm numbers on Monday.
Citizens made landfall in Monroe and Collier counties and then caused widespread damage as it moved up the state. Days after the storm made landfall, Citizens was bracing for up to 125,000 claims.
The company, which has estimated that a 100-year storm hitting Florida could result in up to $6.6 billion in claims, has $7.4 billion in surplus and reinsurance.
In addition, Citizens continues to expect to recoup about $193 million after Irma from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which also provides backup coverage.
With 448,737 policies statewide as of Oct. 31, Citizens has less exposure than it did five years ago when it covered nearly 1.5 million properties.
Last year, Citizens paid out $10.7 million in claims related to hurricanes Hermine and Matthew, with about 4,000 claims filed.
Hermine, which made landfall south of Tallahassee as a Category 1 storm, resulted in 19,699 claims industry-wide that totaled $139 million in losses. Matthew, which never made landfall as it ran up the East Coast, had 119,345 claims, with losses projected at $1.182 billion.