Published: May 10, 2011 11:30 PM EDT
Updated: May 10, 2011 5:19 PM EDT

Property owners should get ready for higher rates on windstorm insurance.  The legislature passed a bill, awaiting Governor Rick Scott's signature, that would allow companies to seek 15 percent increases in premiums each year.    The office of insurance regulation would review the requested rate hikes and rule on them.

"It's a bad feeling when you open that notice every year, and it's the premium going up," said John Barker of South Ft. Myers.   "It seems the insurance people put the burden on the homeowner whenever they can. I don't know how we are supposed to do household budgeting when the premiums are always going up.  The insurance companies seem to be making money."

However, Dan Dannenhauer, chairman of Five County Insurance in S. Ft. Myers, says many companies are hurting.  "Two went out of business last year, and we have not had a hurricane in 5 years.  It shows the insurance companies need some higher premiums to make sure they stay in business, and that they have the base to pay claims in the event of a major catastrophe," Dannehauer told WINK News.

The bill also would limit claims on hurricane damage to 3 years, instead of 5.   And it would limit coverage to structures only, not things like driveways. That's designed to cut down on sinkhole claims, but it also could cost homeowners if their driveways are damaged during a windstorm or hurricane.

The legislature did not pass a bill to allow Citizens Insurance to raise its rates by as much as 25 percent a year.   Dannenhauer says that was a mistake, because Citizens is under-funded and will not be able to pay out all claims after a major hurricane.  

"We have to get other insurers to move back into the state or to move here and start writing wind policies.   We can't have   Citizens as this one company, dwarfing everyone else, and dominating the business.   We need competition.  This bill is designed as a springboard to get companies talking about coming to Florida to write policies," said Dannehauer.