Poe Dropping Storm-Damaged Homes

April 24, 2006

Florida insurance officials confirmed that complaints filed recently against troubled Poe Financial Group came from people who said their policies were dropped before their homes were repaired.

A condominium association in Boca Raton received a letter from Poe’s Southern Family Insurance Co. saying its policy would be dropped on June 1, even though it still has at least six months’ worth of hurricane repairs to make, said Bob Rollins, president of The Beacon Group Inc., an insurance agency in Boca Raton.

State law requires insurers to wait 90 days after a home is repaired before dropping a policy.

“I’m surprised they’re non-renewing a policy with damages,” Rollins said.

The news has many Florida homeowners worrying because private insurers won’t touch damaged property and the 2006 hurricane season is only six weeks away.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher said in a statement Friday that homeowners should not be put in that position.

“Floridians whose homes are still damaged should not be forced to shop for coverage for a home that is uninsurable,” Gallagher said.
A machine that answered the phone Saturday at Poe Financial didn’t accept messages, and the company could not be reached for comment.

Poe executives met with state insurance officials Friday about the company’s high number of unresolved claims. Complaints about such claims jumped to 286 from 254 in the past week, said Bob Lotane, spokesman for the Florida Department of Financial Services. Between March 31 and April 13, the department received 169 complaints about Poe.

Since Hurricane Wilma, the department has receive 3,802 complaints about the company, Lotane said.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation can take disciplinary action against Poe, Lotane said.

Combined, Poe’s three companies cover more than 350,000 policies in the state, many of them along the state’s vulnerable coastal areas. Two of the companies, Atlantic Preferred Insurance Co. and Southern Family, are notifying customers that their policies will not be renewed, a decision that Poe made to stem its losses and reduce its exposure in the state.

The Office of Insurance Regulation would not comment on Poe dropping policies covering homes that had not been repaired homes but released a statement that said Atlantic Preferred and Southern Family policyholders who are being canceled can get coverage at Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run insurer of last resort.

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