Real Estate Blog

Assignment of Benefits Reform Credited with Reduced Rate Hike Request in Florida


Citizens Insurance Lowers Rate Hike Request, Cites AOB Reform

The Florida-owned insurer advanced a plan to lower a proposed average residential premium increase from 8.2% to 4.7% and sent it to its oversight board for approval.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Citizens Property Insurance is scaling back a proposed rate hike after lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved an overhaul that the state-backed insurer has long pursued.

Members of Citizens’ Actuarial and Underwriting Committee advanced a plan Tuesday to the full Board of Governors to lower a proposed average residential premium increase from 8.2% to 4.7%.

The 8.2% increase was approved in December but has not taken effect.

The reduction in the overall hike is possible, according to Citizens officials, following passage of a new law (HB 7065) that overhauled the controversial practice known as assignment of benefits (AOB), which involves policyholders signing over insurance claims to contractors.

The initial rate hike was approved with members blaming water-damage claims and related litigation, particularly in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, for driving up costs in the broader property-insurance market.

In AOB, property owners in need of repairs sign over benefits to contractors, who ultimately pursue payments from insurance companies. While insurers contend the practice has become riddled with fraud and litigation, plaintiffs’ attorneys and other groups say AOB helps make sure claims are properly paid. They accuse insurers of often trying to low-ball amounts paid for work.

Passage of the bill was a victory for insurers. The changes include limits on attorney fees in AOB lawsuits. Also, the bill lets insurers offer policies that do not allow or restrict assignment of benefits.

Citizens Board of Governors member William Kastroll warned Tuesday during the committee meeting in Maitland that the changes will result in an increase in Citizens policy counts, “as other insurance companies out there are taking larger rate increases than this.”

However, Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway disagreed, though he acknowledged that most private insurers will wait to see the impact of the legislation, which fully takes effect July 1, before adjusting their rates.

“The private market is in a very different position. They, without question, will wait and determine what impact AOB legislation is having on the litigation rates, and they will subsequently file increases that reflect the actual experience,” Gilway said. “Citizens is actually estimating their experience upfront, whereas the private market will most likely delay an increase until they can show real progress relative to the reduced litigation.”

The new law will also require insurers to start providing annual data on claims and settlement timeframes starting in 2022, so the state can see how the bill is working.

Citizens’ planned rate increase still needs approval from the state Office of Insurance Regulation. If approved, the hikes would begin in September and fully take effect over the following year as policies renew. Citizens has about 420,000 policies.

The average hike would hit “personal lines” policyholders, including owners of single-family homes, owners of condominiums and renters – though increases would vary across the state depending on factors such as location.

Some 67,000 residential policy holders, just over 15% of the overall policies, won’t see increases. Commercial policies face an average 8.9% increase, unchanged from December.

Source: News Service of Florida, Jim Turner

Ragtime Tavern Happy Hour...All Day Every Day!


Ragtime Tavern Savings No Coupon Required

Ragtime Tavern is an institution in the Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach Town Center.  Easily the largest restaurant and bar, it features live music, and three different venues within the facility to lounge, laugh, eat and drink.  Locals call it "The Corner", as it sits on the corner of Atlantic and Ocean, one block from the beach.

If you are like me, you like to get out with friends and have a good time, and also look for deals and ways to do so while saving money.  Now, when I go to Ragtime, I save on every purchase, every day, up to 27% off the entire bill, no matter what time of day or what you order.  Well, this is among the easiest and best deals I've found to save money at a restaurant, and it never requires coupon clipping or getting the server to enter a membership number or anything like that.  Your savings happens automatically!

There are a few easy steps to get started with your own personal Ragtime "Happy Hour", but once you set things up, you just set it and forget it.

Step 1)  Many of you may already participate in what is called the Rewards Network, more commonly known to give airline miles when dining at restaurants who participate in the program.  My favorite flavor of this program is at as it offers 5% cash back for dining.  It takes a LONG time to get enough miles for quality reward airline tickets, but after just $20 in earnings from idine, you get a debit card in the mail good to use as you like, and not just for dining!  Use it at the grocery store, hair salon, or anywhere American Express cards are welcome.  Register the Visa card you like to use most for dining.

Step 2)  Log in to your Uber app.  Swipe up from the bottom of your screen, and you will see the option to instantly join the Visa Rewards network.  You need at least one Visa card linked to your Uber account to have this option appear.  Go ahead, add your Visa, then wait 5 minutes and try again, it should appear when you swipe up.  PRO TIP:  Make sure to register the Visa card you typically earn the most with when dining, as this is the card you must use to get the Uber cash back at Ragtime Tavern.  Yes, this credit will go in to your Uber account and can be used toward your next ride.  Uber Visa Rewards Savings 7%.

Step 3)  Register for Dosh.  Dosh is an app that gives cash back for everyday purchases, so you should expect to get some bonus bucks at other places not named Ragtime.  If you use this link, you'll get a $5 bonus and I will get a $5 bonus as a thank you for referring you to the app. $5 Dosh Link  Once you download the app, register the same card you did for iDine and Uber.  Dosh savings at Ragtime 5%

Step 4)  Register for the Pei app.  Just like Dosh, it is a card linked program that delivers cash back at store locations around the country.  Just like with Dosh, my link will give you $5 for registering, and I'll receive a $5 bonus as a thank you but you need to enter my referral code "v3as6a" for it to work.  $5 Pei Link  The GREAT thing about Pei, is that it offers between 5-10% back at Ragtime Tavern.  When I looked right now, it was offering 10% on your entire bill!  Pei App savings at Ragtime 5-10%.  Pei is great as it also offers cashback at Wallgreens and CVS on anything you purchase, so there will be bonus bucks in your account and you won't need to do anything more!  A little hack I use at CVS is to pay my health insurance bill there.  CVS and Pei gives me a $5 cashback bonus when doing so.  

Savings Summary:  5% iDine cash, 5% Dosh cash, 5-10% Pei cash and 7% Uber cash = up to 27% cash back on on every purchase, every day!  It is like always have a secret happy hour any time you want! 

Regarding cashing out of the different programs, I just log in to my apps a few times per year and send the accumulated cash I have to my paypal account.  It is easy and seamless.  iDine just sends you a debit card when you hit the $20 mark, and Uber cash is super easy to use in app as a form of payment on your next ride.

Now that you have done the background work, you don't need to do anything else except enjoy yourself and your new free cash back during your next visit to The Corner.  Enjoy!

Are we in 2019 housing bubble?


Experts: Can’t have a bubble with under-supply of homes


NEW YORK – Feb. 15, 2019 – Some housing experts argue that the housing market isn't heading toward another bust – it's still feeling the impact of the last one.

Instead of an oversupply of homes, they stress that not enough homes are being built, and that's pushing prices up to levels that exclude many Americans from homeownership.

"We are underhoused," says Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas.

Among other things, the home shortage is aggravated by low unemployment, which is making it hard to hire construction workers, and not-in-my-backyard zoning rules exacerbate the issue of an already small pool of construction-ready lots.

Tight supply and a subsequent boost in home prices have made homeownership out of reach in some cities, like Manhattan, where the median condo price has hit about $1 million. Even outside of the United States, there has not been much speculative building, says UBS Global Wealth Management's Jonathan Woloshin.

"Nobody asked the question back during the bubble, 'What would happen if prices went down?'" Woloshin says. "Better questions are being asked today."

Dangerous practices like no-documentation loans have been ended through tighter regulation, making it harder for people to buy houses. However, only 1 percent of lenders surveyed recently by Fannie Mae blamed tight standards for credit and underwriting for the weakness in sales – 48 percent cited "insufficient supply."

Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek (02/11/19) Coy, Peter

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