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Parkland Woman Says She Couldn't Cash Her Claim Check Because Property Insurance Company Had Entered Liquidation

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling for a special session to tackle the property insurance crisis.

Republicans did not jump on board to adopt one next month.  But there's still a chance the Governor will make it happen.

Experts believe the time to act is now before the situation becomes catastrophic.

Rising property insurance rates consume many conversations at home in Florida these days.  It impacts everyone.  No one is immune.

And while rates rise, some insurance companies shut their doors.

CBS4 spoke with one woman in Parkland waiting for her claim to process after her insurance company went into liquidation.

"Essentially, I'm still in the same spot," said homeowner Mimi Bright.

Last December, Bright had friends over when she noticed her carpet was squishy.

"I was walking with bare feet on carpeting and heard squoosh," explained Bright.

A leak was discovered in her bathroom, which damaged the floors and left behind mold.

What happened next?

Carpeting ripped up.  Pieces of wooden floor removed.  Walls were ripped out to fix piping and get rid of the mold.

"Fortunately, this was my first experience of something of this scale," Bright added.

Bright's insurer at the time was Avatar.  They eventually issued a claim check.  But Bright could not cash it.  Avatar's financial accounts were frozen, entering liquidation last month.

Then she got a notification.

"It said I had 30 days to get a new policy," explained Bright.

She had to go to the Florida Insurance Guarantee Association.  FIGA, created by the state legislature, processes covered claims for insolvent members.

Bright's still waiting for her claim to go through.

And with an unresolved claim, she said it was nearly impossible to find a new insurer.

Eventually, she landed with Citizens.  And the sticker shock was big.  Her Avatar policy from 2021 compared to her Citizens jumped up 62% to $7,430.

"The financial hardship," exclaimed Bright.  "It's huge.  Over a $3,000 increase for me is a lot."

Bright's not alone.

Avatar also dropped Broward County Property Appraiser Marty Kiar.

"I'm paying a lot more than I did with Avatar," mentioned Kiar.  "If that happened to me, it's happening to many others.  You get very concerned.  At the end of the day, your home is your most valuable asset.  You want to make sure it's protected in case we have a storm."

In Joe Gorchow's conversation with Mark Friedlander, the Insurance Information Institute expects average renewal rates to fall between 30-40% this year.

"Many families can't afford this," stressed Friedlander.  "Their only choice will be to sell their home because they can't afford the insurance coverage."

Friedlander says eight to 10 insurance companies in Florida are in a volatile financial position.  He calls this a manmade crisis.

"This is not a natural disaster.  It's caused by two factors, rampant roof replacement fraud schemes and runaway litigation filed against insurers."

Over 100,000 property claims lawsuits were filed in Florida last year.  According to the institute's study, Friedlander says no other state had more than 900.

"This should have been when insurers build up capital positions," said Friedlander.  "Instead, insurers are losing a tremendous amount of capital."

People like Bright are caught in the crosshairs of litigation and rising insurance rates.

"People are not sure what the solution is or that things will change and get better," explained State Rep Christine Hunschofsky, D-96.  "So, I think that's adding even more concern."

Hunschofsky adds that if the legislature can act in a special session, it's unclear how quickly Floridians would see new legislation benefits.

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