JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Charlie Crist, the Democratic nominee for Florida governor, held a news conference Wednesday in Jacksonville, saying he has tackled property insurance in Florida before and he would do it again as governor.
He said he plans to take on the property insurance crisis impacting thousands of Floridians by reversing rate hikes and expanding coverage. He wants to go back some of the things he did when he was governor of Florida — like bringing back the My Safe Florida Home Program.
Florida’s property insurance market has been in upheaval as insurers have dropped customers and sought huge rate increases because of financial losses. Five property insurers have been declared insolvent since February, and policies have poured into Citizens Property Insurance, which was created by the state as an insurer of last resort.
While campaigning in Jacksonville, Crist criticized Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and how he has handled the crisis, saying the governor is more interested in getting to the White House than protecting Floridians’ homes.
“Gov. DeSantis created a property insurance crisis in Florida,” Crist said.
DeSantis called a special legislative session in May to address problems in the broader insurance system. Lawmakers made a series of changes, including trying to address roof-damage claims that insurers blame for increasing costs, trying to curb litigation costs about claims and creating a $2 billion program to provide additional reinsurance to private insurers.
News4JAX asked Crist what he plans to do differently.
“I called a special session just like Gov. DeSantis did. The difference was Gov. DeSantis had a special session that was really special for the insurance industry. He didn’t lower rates for you and me and all other Floridians one iota. When I held a special session, we lowered rates. We use the law, we use the insurance commissioner’s office and lowered rates across the board 10%,” Crist said. “This guy doesn’t care. He doesn’t have you in his heart. I do, and that’s the difference.”
Crist said that while businesses need to make a profit, they can’t gouge people in the process and double the rates in a four-year period.
People who have been dealing with these increases say not much has been done to protect them in the last few years.
Mandarin resident Toby Getman told News4JAX that she was told she needed a new roof last year.
“I think it gave me 60 days to get a new roof or lose my policy,” she recounted.
She said she got an appraisal done that said the roof is useful for another one to three years, so she sent the appraisal to her insurance company.
“And they said, ‘Yeah, that doesn’t matter. Whether it’s good or not makes no difference. You either do it or you lose your insurance.’ And I was, like, ‘Oh no, what happens? I have a mortgage,’” Getman said.
So, she said, she spent $20,000 getting a new roof. To make matters worse, she said, the repairs shot her insurance rates through the roof.
“My homeowners for the year was $2,287. After the new roof, my homeowners insurance is now $4,184,” Getman said. “It is crazy. It is ludicrous that this is the case. If you can’t call it fraud, let’s call it trickery.”
She’s one of the hundreds of thousands of Floridians with a story like this. Viewers told News4JAX that that their policies doubled, tripled and some of them dropped from the multiple insurance companies that left the state.
“It’s completely ridiculous,” Getman said. “And I wish someone would do something.”
Getman said she wants a candidate that will go after companies making fortunes on building new roofs that aren’t needed and work to reimburse those in situations like hers.
News4JAX reached out to DeSantis’ office for a response to Crist’s comments Wednesday and is waiting to hear back.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.