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AAA pulls back from renewing some insurance policies in Florida

Fewer options for property insurance in Florida
Fewer options for property insurance in Florida 02:30

AAA will not renew the auto and home insurance policies for some customers in Florida, joining a growing list of insurers dialing back their presence in the Sunshine State amid a growing risk of natural disasters.

"Unfortunately, Florida's insurance market has become challenging in recent years," the company said in a statement emailed to CBS MoneyWatch. "Last year's catastrophic hurricane season contributed to an unprecedented rise in reinsurance rates, making it more costly for insurance companies to operate."

AAA declined to say how many customers won't have their policies renewed, saying only that the change will affect "a small percentage" of policy holders.

The company is the fourth insurer over the last year say it is backing away from insuring Floridians, a sign extreme weather linked to climate change is destabilizing the insurance market. Farmers Insurance recently said it will no longer offer coverage in the state, affecting roughly 100,000 customers. 

Farmers said the move will affect only company-branded policies, which make up about 30% of its policies sold in the state.

Bankers Insurance and Lexington Insurance, a subsidiary of AIG, left Florida last year, saying recent natural disasters have made it too expensive to insure residents. Hurricanes Ian and Nicole devastated Florida in 2022, causing billions of dollars in damage and killing a total about about 150 people.

Under Florida law, companies are required to give three months' notice to the Office of Insurance Regulation before they tell customers their policies won't be renewed.

Some insurers in Florida have gone out of business in recent years, brought down by massive payouts from storms. Still, drivers and homeowners who AAA dropped have options for finding a new insurer. Hundreds of companies — including Allstate, Esurance, Geico, Hartford and 21st Century — still offer policies in the state, according to Florida's database of insurance companies. 

Soaring homeowner costs

Already, homeowners in the state pay about three times as much for insurance coverage as the national average, and rates this year are expected to soar about 40%. 

Insurance companies are leaving Florida even as lawmakers in December passed legislation aimed at stabilizing the market. Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that, among other things, creates a $1 billion reinsurance fund and puts disincentives in place to prevent frivolous lawsuits. The law takes effect in October. 

AAA said it's encouraged by the new measure, but noted "those improvements will take some time to fully materialize and until they do, AAA, like all other providers in the state, are forced to make tough decisions to manage risk and catastrophe exposure."

Insurers are staging a similar exodus in California, where AIG, Allstate and State Farm have stopped taking on new customers, saying that wildfires are driving up the costs of underwriting policies. Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

According to data compiled by the industry-supported Insurance Information Institute, California has more than 1.2 million homes at risk for extreme wildfire, far more than any other state.

Insurance premiums are also rising in Colorado because of wildfire risks, and an Oregon effort to map wildfire risk was rejected last year because of fears it would cause premiums to skyrocket.

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