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Siesta Key Thursday, Mar. 1, 2012 9 years ago

Condominium owners worried about Citizens Insurance decision

by: Rachel Brown Hackney Managing Editor

Condominium owners on Siesta Key are trying this week to gain clarification of a vote taken Feb. 23 by the Citizens Property Insurance Board of Governors, regarding wind damage policies.

Candace Bunker, a spokeswoman for Citizens, reported Feb. 28 that the board had approved an option that calls for restricting coverage to $1 million for any single structure with condominiums in which more than 25% of the units are rented regularly.

That could translate into insurance policy increases between 400% and 500% for owners of units in such buildings.

In December, the Siesta Key Condominium Council sent letters to all of the state legislators representing Sarasota County, pleading with them to intervene on behalf of coastal condominium owners who were alarmed about the potential insurance cost increases.

The Citizens board originally was scheduled to vote on the wind policies last year; however, lobbying by condo owners resulted in the delay of the decision until late February.

According to a list of options provided to the Citizens board for its Feb. 23 meeting, the change in wind damage coverage would be in line with private-sector policies, it would improve Citizens’ financial footing and it would lead to new and renewal policies being handled in the same manner, resulting in a fairer process.

However, the option pointed out one minus:“Agents and current policyholders would not like the change, as rates would be increased on some renewals.”

After reviewing the Citizens decision, Walt Olson, vice president of the Condo Council, said Wednesday morning, “There’s some wiggle room that we don’t understand” in the adopted option.

According to his reading of the information Bunker provided, Olson said, it appeared the $1 million policy limitation would be applied to buildings in which more than 25% of the units were rented at least three times in a calendar year for less than 30 days at a time. If that were correct, he said, the condominium complexes in Sarasota County would be exempt.

As Sarasota County Code Enforcement Officer John Lally has pointed out numerous times over the past year, owners cannot rent property more than once every 30 days. When the Florida Legislature approved a bill last year regarding short-term rentals, any existing county ordinance, such as Sarasota’s, was exempt from the state guidelines.

Olson pointed out that each of the buildings in the Excelsior complex on Midnight Pass Road, in which he lives, carries about $10 million in coverage with Citizens.

During the Condo Council’s Feb. 21 meeting, guest John Dauenheimer, vice president of Insurance Service of Sarasota, had predicted the Citizens board would not change the residential wind damage policy, saying it was purely a political issue.

He also decried the fact that more members of the public had not protested the proposal.

Olson was unable to reach Dauenheimer Wednesday for clarification of the Citizens vote, he said.

Community Editor Nick Friedman contributed to this story.

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