Could Harvey push Fla. homeowner’s insurance rates higher?

MIAMI – Aug. 30, 2017 – Hurricane Harvey’s devastating property damage toll will easily be counted in the billions of dollars, but insurance industry experts say they shouldn’t have an impact on property insurance rates in hurricane-prone Florida.

AIR Worldwide, which advises companies on managing risk, estimates that Harvey caused between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion in wind and storm damage. Another analytical firm, CoreLogic, forecasts between $1 billion and $2 billion. Risk Management Solutions says the total could be $6 billion but likely will be less.

But that’s just the hit for property and casualty insurers. Flood damage could be tens of billions more.

Lynne McChristian, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry organization, said that Florida homeowner insurance rates shouldn’t be affected for one simple reason: rates are set at the state level and are based on what happens within the state. “What happens in Florida stays in Florida, what happens in Texas stays in Texas and that is the way it works in every state,” she said.

The organization’s website, http://www.iii.org, includes a chart that shows average insurance rates across all states. Those reflect the risks inside each state’s borders.

The lowest insurance rates in the U.S. are Idaho and Utah, she said. “That’s primarily because you don’t have hurricanes there – or major flooding. And, there is not the population density of more disaster-prone states.”

That’s not the case for the struggling National Flood Insurance Program, because that is regulated at the federal level, she said.

Jay Neal, CEO of the Florida Association of Insurance Reform, also said he doesn’t expect Harvey’s toll to impact Florida homeowner rates. Still, he said, the devastation in Texas should be a wake-up call for the estimated 1.4 million Florida homes vulnerable to storm surge but not currently covered by flood insurance.

“People still don’t understand that storm surge is not covered by their homeowner policies,” he said. “People need to wake up and look at Texas. This could happen here.”

In a statement, William H. Stander, executive director of the Florida Property & Casualty Association, said the organization can’t speculate on how Texas losses could impact Florida rates: “More importantly, all Floridians should recognize the importance of buying flood insurance, which is not covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy,” he said.

© 2017 Miami Herald, Nancy Dahlberg. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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