Marion County woman says she must unretire to afford property insurance

‘The whole special session was like we treated stage-1 cancer, but the patient has stage-4 cancer,’ Sen, Jeff Brandes says.

When Pamela Kelley opened the latest notice from her property insurer, her reaction was quick and decisive. Two years ago, Kelly’s insurance premium was $611 per year. In 2021, it more than doubled to $1,552 a year.

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – After more than a decade of retirement, a Marion County woman says she is headed back to work.

The reason? The cost of her property insurance.

Even lawmakers who supported new legislation said, what they passed in May, and has already taken effect, is not enough.

When Pamela Kelley opened the latest notice from her property insurer, her reaction was quick and decisive.

[TRENDING: How much? Orlando International Airport raises parking prices | Win tickets to watch Artemis 1 rocket launch | Video shows large gator eating another alligator in Silver Springs | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

“I’m going to have to go back to work,” Kelley said. “I’m going to have to get a part-time job or I’m going to lose my home,” she said.

Two years ago, Kelly’s insurance premium was $611 per year. In 2021, it more than doubled to $1,552 a year.

This year, it hit an all-time high of more than $2,248 annually, nearly quadrupling what she paid just two years ago.

“Living here where there’s hardly any hurricane activity, I mean very little, this is exorbitant,” Kelley said. “I mean, this is unbelievable,”

“The increase in your insurance rates, that’s the tipping point for you having to go back to work?,” News 6 asked.

“Absolutely, because that’s going to increase my house payment considerably,” Kelley said.

News 6 has been investigating the state’s property insurance crises for more than a year, and Kelley is by no means alone.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes pushed for the legislature to have a special session on property insurance. It happened back in May and even he is disappointed with the outcome.

“The whole special session was like we treated stage-1 cancer, but the patient has stage-4 cancer, and we should have gotten a lot more aggressive than we actually did,” Brandes said. “There are people on fixed incomes who are really going to struggle unless the legislature gets their hands around this thing.”

The first shot at homeowners seeing some relief was supposed to be at the end of June. That’s when insurers that participated in the state’s newly created RAP program were supposed to reduce their rates to reflect the cost savings from participating in the program.

More than 60 insurance companies filed rate reductions with the Office of Insurance Regulation. The average reduction was about 1-2%, but most companies had already raised their rates upwards of 40%.

“The simple truth is the RAP program is spit and chewing gum compared to what the state really needs,” Brandes said. “So if the outcome we wanted was more competition, lower prices, and a better, healthier market, that bill didn’t get us there.”

The legislation passed during the special session was written by Republicans and passed overwhelmingly in the Republican-controlled legislature. Brandes is a Republican.

“I think the entire legislature bears responsibility for not doing enough in this space,” Brandes said.

Brandes said the legislature still has work to do.

Meanwhile, for Kelley, it’s back to work, too. She said she never thought she would have to return to work.

“Never dreamed that this would ever come about,” Kelley said.

Brandes believes the state should do away with “one-way” attorney’s fees, which basically allows insurers to pay attorney’s fees for a homeowner’s lawsuit in some cases. He also believes the state should do away with Assignment of Benefits, which is an agreement that transfers the insurance claims rights or benefits to a third party. He also believes in allowing for actual cash value or prorating roof replacements.

“If all three things are done, the market will eventually correct itself,” Brandes said.

Get today’s headlines in minutes with Your Florida Daily:


About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.