DeSantis and lawmakers abandoned Florida homeowners — and now we’re fighting back | Opinion

The dreaded month of home insurance renewal is coming up — and, like fellow Floridians, I’m at a crossroads and asking tough questions.

Is doling out the cash for outrageous premiums worth it anymore? Is the rising cost of a barely adequate home insurance policy worth the price when deductibles are so high that I may never use the benefit?

Then, there’s the ultimate, long-range examination: Will we be able to keep our homes after retirement — like our parents’ generation did — or will home insurance costs, coupled with other rising expenses, drive us out of Florida?

Car insurance premiums also are skyrocketing, and the denser the Sunshine State gets, the greater the risks and the higher they’ll go. And let’s not talk about exploding grocery bills.

South Florida, in particular, always gets the short end of the stick on insurance premiums, whether we experience a hurricane or not — and so much so that housing costs have catapulted Miami to the top of the lists of least affordable cities.

Homeowners are being pushed to the brink in a state that has the highest cost of home insurance in the nation — an average of $6,000 a year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Politicians fail us

Worst yet, the governor and lawmakers who represent us only pay lip service to the home insurance crisis when they’re on the campaign trail.

Once elected, they fail us.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature abandoned homeowners when they had the chance — and the healthy surplus in state coffers — last legislative session. They could’ve capped rate increases, and we at least would be holding steady. They could have assisted homeowners in distress, but instead blew millions on misguided immigration initiatives.

The bills they entertained only beefed up insurance companies, keeping us from challenging them when they don’t pay up claims as they should. Lawmakers blamed the crisis on lawsuits, when evidence of that was thin.

READ MORE: Joke’s on you for believing Florida Republicans would deliver lower insurance rates | Opinion

With premiums doubling during the last years, why even buy insurance when so much is stacked against us?

Many Floridians are asking the question — and fighting back by taking the huge risk of going without property insurance. Others are selling their homes and leaving the state.

All the bills being considered during the Florida Legislature’s special session are aimed at protecting the insurance industry, not homeowners, Fabiola Santiago writes.
All the bills being considered during the Florida Legislature’s special session are aimed at protecting the insurance industry, not homeowners, Fabiola Santiago writes.

I can’t blame us.

The older I get, the less poised I am to throw money to the wind.

And we have few prospects of getting relief in a state run by a super-majority of pro-industry Republican stalwarts that believe profit-making for wealthy donors comes before people’s quality of life and welfare.

Only in Florida would a legislator like Republican Sen. Joe Gruters suggest that lawmakers invest in an insurance fund that would represent to them 165% profit. They feel no shame seeking to make money on the crisis at our expense.

READ MORE: Florida lawmakers, our homeowners insurance crisis isn’t your investment opportunity | Opinion

What good is a Florida policy?

No, ordinary Floridians don’t stand a chance with the ruthless in charge.

When a homeowner doesn’t even have the right to contest malfeasance — or simply, an insurance company short-changing us — what is a policy good for? Catastrophic hurricane coverage, an airplane falling on your house, the place catching on fire in any myriad of ways, someone falling down on your property and suing you.

But ask Sanibel and Captiva homeowners rebuilding after catastrophic Hurricane Ian how their claims are going: Slow and poorly — with flood and wind insurers arguing over who should pay what, and thousands in “No, we don’t cover that” out-of-pocket expenses.

Every time I get to this point with my policy, I take stock, this year more so.

If enough of us leave the market, maybe insurers will sweat a little. Yet, we must ask: Will the stress during hurricane season be worth it?

READ MORE: Thinking about going bare? What to know before you cancel your property insurance

The theory is that saving the premium could build a home emergency fund over time.

I know a Hialeah family who diligently paid the mortgage early and has successfully gone without insurance for decades. They’ve also fortified their home, storm-proofing, constantly maintaining it and updating their roof.

Their independence from home insurance companies is enviable — and every year, upon receiving renewal premiums, I vow to do the same.

But, thinking of hurricane season is paralyzing. I give in, falling to my default position of increasing deductibles to make the almost $7,000 premium on a concrete block 4/3 house more affordable.

And now I have a whopping $40,000+ hurricane deductible.

“You live in a bunker,” a friendly adjuster who inspected my house for the insurance company told me. “This house is really well built.”

I felt the pride of the smart little pig in the children’s story who built a solid house of brick so the wolf couldn’t blow it down.

“And look,” he said, showing me a picture of the belly of my roof. “The guys who hammered the nails were too lazy to take out this errant one, and you confirm that your roof is solidly held by 12” nails. As good as it gets.”

None of his happy talk kept my premiums from rising.

Maybe it’s time to join the caravan out of Floriduh.

Santiago
Santiago