Citizens Property Insurance Review: Low Rates but Limited Offerings From the Government Insurer

Citizens Property Insurance Review: Low Rates but Limited Offerings From the Government Insurer

Editor's Rating

A nonprofit government entity designed for the uninsured homeowner, Florida's Citizens Property Insurance Corporation provides limited coverage and poor customer service.

Good for

  • Floridians who cannot get an affordable, or any, homeowners insurance policy on the private market

Bad for

  • Shoppers looking to customize their policy limits and coverage options
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Editor's Rating

A nonprofit government entity designed for the uninsured homeowner, Florida's Citizens Property Insurance Corporation provides limited coverage and poor customer service.

Good for

  • Floridians who cannot get an affordable, or any, homeowners insurance policy on the private market

Bad for

  • Shoppers looking to customize their policy limits and coverage options
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Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is a government entity that provides homeowners and other property insurance policies for those who cannot find affordable coverage elsewhere. As a Florida resident, you'll only be eligible for a Citizens policy if the private market won't cover you at a competitive rate and, if it is your only option, it is better to be insured than uninsured. However, Citizens' policies do not have much to offer beyond low rates, as the insurer provides limited coverage options and poor customer service.

Contents

Citizens Property Insurance Corp.: Our thoughts

A nonprofit entity created by the Florida state government, Citizens Property Insurance plays a unique role as a low-cost homeowners insurance provider in the state. Known as "an insurer of last resort," Citizens can only write insurance policies for properties that private, authorized insurance companies won't cover or won't provide appropriately affordable coverage for. Louisiana, a state similarly afflicted by extreme weather, created a similar but distinct insurance entity to tackle the same problem. Put simply, you can only purchase a Citizens policy if:

  • A Florida-authorized insurance company will not offer you coverage.
  • Premiums from Florida-authorized insurance companies are more than 15% higher than similar coverage from Citizens.

Citizens' status as a backup insurer is both positive and negative. On the positive side, the nonprofit's policies provide its customers with homeowners insurance essentials at a competitive price: Its policies consistently ranked as some of the most affordable in the state.

On the other hand, buying a policy with Citizens leaves you with limited customization options compared to private market insurers. For example, you'll be unable to change your personal liability coverage from the standard limit of $100,000. Even worse, the government entity has one of the least favorable customer service reputations of any homeowners insurance provider in the state.

Bottom Line: Citizens itself encourages Florida residents to find a private-market policy instead and provides online tools to facilitate that process. If you're purchasing a homeowners insurance policy from Citizens, it's because you can't find a fair price or any coverage from the private homeowners insurance market. With a Citizens homeowners insurance policy, you'll get basic coverage for an affordable price, but you're also likely to deal with a difficult customer service experience, particularly in the claims process.

Citizens Property Insurance policy coverage and discounts

Citizens Insurance offers very basic homeowners insurance coverage that matches the standard features of an HO-3 policy. If you can access coverage from private insurers but are eligible for Citizens because of the high rates on the private market, you should still shop available insurers to see if there's a better fit. Despite higher rates, these insurers are likely to provide more coverage options and potentially more value for your money.

One perk Citizens coverage does offer is replacement-cost coverage for your dwelling, so the cost to rebuild your home to its previous quality will be completely covered up to policy limits.
Covered by Citizens homeowners insurance
Details
Limits
Your dwelling (Coverage A)Covers damage to the structure of your home and attached structures in the event of a covered peril. Coverage is on a replacement-cost basis, meaning it will cover the cost of completely rebuilding the home, ignoring depreciation$25,000 to $700,000. Maximum limit is extended to $1 million in Miami-Dade or Monroe counties
Attached structuresCovers damage to structures not physically attached to your home, like a detached garage or storage shed2% to 60% of Coverage A
Personal belongingsCovers damage to or theft of the contents of your home. Standard coverage values your items on an actual cash value basis, meaning you'll receive less money for items with wear and tear25% to 50% of Coverage A
Additional living expensesCovers the cost of staying elsewhere if your home is temporarily uninhabitable due to a covered peril, such as room and board10% of Coverage A
Personal liability coverageProtects you and your family from the costs of bodily damage or property damage for which you are legally liable$100,000
Medical paymentsCovers emergency medical costs in the event guests are injured on your property$2,000
Debris removalCovers cleanup costs for debris related to trees and wind caused by a covered peril$500
Credit card, fund transfer, forgery and counterfeit money fraudCovers monetary losses caused by these events$500
Loss assessmentCovers losses collectively assessed by a homeowners association against its members$1,000
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These features provide Citizens policyholders with the essentials of homeowners coverage. But Citizens' options for customization are limited compared to many private market insurers in a variety of important ways:

Low and fixed special limits for personal property: High-value items are only covered up to low, fixed limits, and Citizens does not provide the option to adjust them. For instance, jewelry and furs are only covered up to $1,000, so if you own an engagement ring valued in excess of $1,000, you won't be fully covered.

Fixed personal liability coverage at $100,000: Most insurers will give you the ability to increase your liability coverage to much more than $100,000 at limited additional cost. With Citizens, you are stuck at that limit.

No coverage for water backup or sump pump failure: Citizens does not provide coverage for damage caused by water backup or sump overflow either as a standard feature or an add-on. Although not standard in many homeowners insurance policies, it is often offered as optional add-on coverage.

Citizens does offer some choice of add-on coverage features at an additional fee. The only add-on features offered by Citizens are for building ordinance and sinkhole coverage or an upgrade to replacement cost valuation for personal property.

Optional coverage
What it covers
Limits
Sinkhole loss coverageCovers damage to your dwelling due to ground subsidence, described as the sinking or settling of the ground's surface. However, deductibles are quite high, set at 10% of dwelling coverage100% of Coverage A
Personal property replacement costCovers your personal belongings on a replacement cost basis, rather than an actual cost basis, meaning your reimbursement will ignore wear and tear and pay you for an item of similar specifications25% to 50% of Coverage A
Ordinance or law coverageCovers costs associated with rebuilding parts of your dwelling to be in compliance with current building codes and regulations25% or 50% of Coverage A
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As a Florida insurer, Citizens homeowners insurance includes coverage for hurricane damage, but its policies do not cover flood damage. Flood insurance coverage you'll have to acquire separately from the National Flood Insurance Program or a private-market flood insurance company. As is standard with hurricane coverage, Citizens Property has a separate deductible for damage related to the storms, meaning that, depending on your deductibles, you could potentially be paying more money out of pocket if you make a claim related to hurricane damage.

Citizens Property Insurance deductible options

Deductible
Options
All other perils$500, $1,000 or $2,500
Hurricane deductibleEither $500 or 2%, 5% or 10% of Coverage A
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Citizens home insurance discounts

Citizens discount options are limited compared to most insurers. Given it is solely a property insurer, you won't have the option to receive a discount by bundling your homeowners policy with other insurance such as auto or umbrella policies. Citizens only offers typical discount features related to increasing the safety of your home from weather-related events, fires or burglaries.

  • Wind mitigation: Receive a discount for features such as window shutters and hip roofs that lower the risks of wind damage.
  • Building code: Receive a discount if your home was built after Jan. 1, 2002 or if it has an updated roof to meet appropriate building standards.
  • Alarm systems and sprinklers: Receive a discount if you have centrally monitored fire or burglar alarm or a sprinkler system.

Citizens insurance inspections

Depending on the type and amount of coverage you're looking for, the discounts you desire and age and location of your property, Citizens may need a Florida-licensed inspector to conduct an inspection of your home.

Four-point inspection: Required for all homeowner applications for properties more than 30 years old. The four points refers to inspection of your home's electrical system, plumbing, heating and cooling system and roof.

High-value inspection: If your home is valued at $650,000 or more, you may not be properly covered by a Citizens policy given its maximum dwelling coverage of $700,000, requiring a high-value inspection.

Roof inspection: Roofs older than 25 years (shingle or other type) or 50 years (tile, slate, clay, concrete or metal) need documentation showing at least three years remaining useful life before Citizens will write a policy on your home. Citizens will require an inspector to complete a roof inspection form verifying that it meets its established roof requirements.

Wind-damage mitigation inspection: If you're looking for a discount on your policy because of your home's wind mitigation features, you'll have to get an inspection to identify and document the features.

Sinkhole inspection: If you're seeking to pay for optional sinkhole loss coverage, you will have to get an inspection to determine whether your property is eligible for this additional coverage.

Citizens wind insurance and other alternate policies

Citizens does offer additional policies besides homeowners insurance policies. These include wind-only policies for eligible homeowners and a variety of property policies for those living in different types of structures, such as condos and mobile homes.

Wind-only policies: You can get standalone wind-only insurance — only covering damage from hail and wind — in certain areas of Florida. If you want to determine whether your property has wind-only policy eligibility, you can search your address using a tool on Citizens' website.

Modified homeowners policies: You can purchase a cheaper but more restricted homeowners policy with less coverage for some major perils, such as water damage.

Condo unit policies: If you're a condo owner who lives in their unit, you can purchase a condo policy that covers the unit's interior, personal property, liability coverage and additional living expenses. These policies do not cover the exterior of the condo building.

Mobile home insurance policies: Similar to a homeowners policy but for those who live in a mobile or manufactured home as their primary residence.

Renters insurance policies: If you're a renter, you can purchase a policy to cover personal property, additional living expenses and liability insurance without covering the dwelling itself.

Citizens home insurance quote comparison

Compared to some of the largest insurance companies in Florida by market share, Citizens home insurance quotes are among the cheapest in the state. Citizens Property insurance rates are consistently competitive across different counties and home profiles in our sample. Rates were notably cheap for houses with wind mitigation features, illustrating the benefit of taking advantage of the insurer's discounts for home features that lower the risk of wind damage.

Citizens Quote

One downside to shopping with Citizens Insurance is that there is no online quote tool, so you won't be able to get a personalized home insurance quote online. If you're looking for sample rates for your property insurance you'll have to contact a Citizens agent; its website has an agent lookup feature to find a local contact near you.

Citizens Insurance Company assessment charges, rate changes and depopulation

A risk of being a Citizens policyholder is that your premiums could see notable and sudden increases in the event of a major statewide disaster. Citizens saves a certain percentage of its premium income to pay for future storm claims, but a devastating storm or collection of storms could wipe out those reserves. Florida law would then require Citizens to charge higher fees, called assessments, on policyholders until the deficit in reserves is eliminated.

The first wave of assessments could charge policyholders a fee totaling up to 45% of their policy premium. This means that a Citizens policyholder with a premium of $1,000 could potentially face a one-time surcharge of $450 on top of their premium. In particularly extreme scenarios there could be emergency assessments charged on top of this over multiple years. Private market insurance has its risks too, of course: Insurers can decide to discontinue coverage in high-risk areas or raise rates to cover their losses.

Citizens argues that any assessment would be unlikely: It forecasts that it could handle both a 1-in-100 year storm and a 1-in-28 year storm without having to charge policyholders extra. Regardless, though Citizens offers affordable rates, it's important to be aware of the risk that extreme weather scenarios could lead to substantial charges for policyholders.

Additionally, the insurer forecasts that most Citizens Insurance policyholders will see rate increases this year and in the years to come. Although policyholders in inland areas outside of South Florida may in fact see rate decreases, vulnerable areas near the coast of the south, such as Miami, are projected to face rate hikes of approximately 10% per year in the coming years.

Finally, Citizens remains focused on finding coverage in the private market for its policyholders in a process called depopulation. When it finds private insurers that are willing to cover you, you will receive a policyholder choice offer letter from Citizens informing you that one or more companies would like to take over your policy and assume coverage of your home. In this case, you should review all your options, including potentially staying with Citizens if you desire. If you receive this letter but would like to remain with Citizens Insurance, you can fill out an opt out form to exclude yourself from the process.

Citizens home insurance customer service reviews and ratings

Citizens Property Insurance rates poorly for customer service based on customer feedback and its customer-complaint ratio. Citizens' customer reviews are generally negative, with a predominance of feedback describing an unfair claims process in which many customers believe their claims to have been unjustly denied. Further, Citizens has the highest share of customer complaints relative to the size of its business of any major insurance provider in the state, according to the customer complaint index assembled by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

Insurer
Market share
Complaint index
Federated National4.9%0.84
Universal Property8.9%1.26
Security First3.3%1.33
Citizens Property4.9%2.65

A higher complaint index means more complaints relative to the size of a provider's business

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From a financial stability perspective, Citizens benefits from its status as a government-backed nonprofit entity and its ability to impose emergency assessments on all insurance policyholders in Florida. Citizens receives an A1 rating from credit rating agency Moody's — meaning it has a low credit risk — based on its power to charge these assessments on policyholders. If you're a Citizens Property Insurance policyholder, this means it is very likely Citizens will be able to pay your claim given its ability to raise new funds. The downside is that it will be raising these funds by charging its policyholders higher premiums.

Filing a claim and paying bills with Citizens Property Insurance

Citizens offers the option of filing a claim online or by phone. If you prefer an online process for claims management, you can go on to the Citizens Property Insurance website and login to myPolicy, the insurer's online self-service tool. This platform can also be used to view your policy and pay your bill online.

If you want to report a claim or pay your bill by phone, you can call Citizens' property insurance 24/7 phone number at 866-411-2742. Finally, if you want to pay your bill by mail, you can pay using personal and cashier's checks mailed to the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. address in Jacksonville, Florida, or, for overnight payments, directly to their payment processing department in the same city.

Mark is a Senior Research Analyst for ValuePenguin focusing on the insurance industry, primarily auto insurance. He previously worked in financial risk management at State Street Corporation.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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