Hurricane Irma could hike insurance costs for Canadian snowbirds

An estimated 500,000 Canadians own Florida properties

Canadian snowbirds who were lucky enough to escape property damage from hurricane Irma will still face higher costs as insurance providers jack up premiums and condo associations levy special assessments, say Florida insurance experts.

“We’re probably looking at across-the-board 15 to 20 per cent increase in property insurance costs over the next year,” says Brad Hubbard, the Tampa owner of an insurance agency and an engineering consulting firm specializing in flood risk.

He said the higher premiums could come from greater insurance losses and reinsurance companies determining there is a statistical increase in the risk that future storms will be more frequent and severe.

Hurricane Irma is expected to be one of the mostly costly storms in history with losses estimated at US$20 billion to US$65 billion, including up to US$50 billion in the U.S., according to risk modelling software company AIR Worldwide.

READ: Horses ride out hurricane Irma in family’s living room

Additional insurance costs will be borne by all insured Florida homeowners, including the estimated 500,000 Canadians who own Florida properties.

Condo owners could also face special assessments if their building sustains heavy damage that isn’t fully covered by insurance or its policy has a high deductible.

“Your condo can be fine but at the end of the year you could receive a bill that says $3,500,” added Martin Rivard, an insurance broker in Boynton Beach originally from Shawinigan, Que.

The situation could be especially acute in areas like the Florida Keys, where 25 per cent of homes were destroyed by heavy winds and storm surge.

Rivard said he’s always amazed by homeowners — especially Canadians who purchased second residences when they were extremely cheap during the housing collapse — who decline to take out a policy because of the increased cost.

“I’m hoping that Irma was a wake-up call,” he said in an interview.

READ: Canadians in Florida brace for hurricane Irma

The average price of homeowner’s insurance in high-risk wind areas of Florida is US$2,055 or US$1,500 if you buy through Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, a state-run provider. Flood coverage premiums average US$450, providing coverage of $250,000 on the structure and $100,000 for the contents, says the Insurance Information Institute.

Canadians are eligible to buy homeowner’s insurance from Citizens Property Insurance and flooding insurance from the federal National Flood Insurance Programs. Only 16 per cent of Americans purchase flood insurance and less than 10 per cent have no insurance at all.

Canadians were eager to buy insurance after hurricane Andrew devastated southern Florida in 1992, but Rivard said the concern has waned because the state hasn’t experienced a big storm in about a decade.

Renee and Dino Picchioni are relieved their mobile home north of Tampa was spared because they didn’t carry any insurance.

“It’s too expensive to pay for insurance down there for four months out of the year,” Renee said from Windsor, Ont.

Since they don’t own the land where their mobile home is parked, the couple was prepared to walk away if the unit was destroyed.

Rivard expects many others will do the same if their insurance doesn’t cover repair costs.

Realtor Jass Tremblay of Marathon said most of the Canadian customers she knows in the Keys don’t have insurance. While people with a mortgage are required to have insurance that covers wind, they can roll the dice if they pay cash.

Tremblay, a Quebec City native, said she hopes those without coverage would have put money aside so they can face such a disaster.

“Some of them lost everything. They’re probably panicking,” Tremblay said from Deerfield Beach where she holed up during the storm.

Brent Leathwood, a realtor in Sarasota who is originally from Burlington, Ont., said about 80 per cent of his Canadian customers are fully insured even though tougher building codes after hurricane Andrew have helped to minimize damage.

“Canadians tend to be, I would say, sober and pragmatic in their assessments of things and they’re a little less inclined to take big, crazy risks like some of the people in the states are.”

Florida’s insurance system has been strengthened since hurricane Andrew as the number of people living in coastal areas surged 27 per cent between 2000 and 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We feel that we’re in the best position we can be in at this time,” said Michael Peltier, spokesman for Florida’s public insurance provider.

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

City of Wetaskiwin saves nearly $1M, restructures staff

‘Streamlining’ results in 10 positions eliminated at City of Wetaskiwin

Team Alberta ends Games strongly with 44 medals in week one

Alberta is currently sitting in second place of the medal standings

PHOTOS: Alberta male team takes silver in Winter Games relay speed skating

Alberta was close behind Quebec in the team relay speed skating finals

Alberta was crowned champions in Wheelchair Basketball at Canada Winter Games

Ontario won silver while Quebec took home the bronze medal

Maskwacis RCMP seek three in home invasion case

Maskwacis RCMP investigate home invasion

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Red Deer RCMP seek assistance in locating missing elderly male

Mr. Routly’s family is concerned due to the fact that he suffers from a mild form of dementia

A ‘warm embrace’ for grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims

Mourners offered love and support to Kawthar Barho, mother of seven children

Pink Shirt Day a reminder to ‘T.H.I.N.K.’ before posting on social media

‘Be Kind’ message on shirts sold for anti-bullying activities of Wednesday, Feb. 27

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

WATCH: Pet therapy brings calmness to Winter Games athletes

Canada Winter Games in Red Deer continue on until March 2nd

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

Child advocacy centre raising funds through Dream Home Lottery

The child advocacy centre in Red Deer uses its resources to help kids all over Central Alberta

Trudeau tells Canadians to listen to clerk in SNC-Lavalin matter

Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick delivered a blunt assessment at the House of Commons justice

Most Read