About Citizens home insurance
Citizens Property Insurance was created in 2002 by the Florida legislature to provide coverage for homeowners who couldn’t find insurance on the private market. But today, what was designed to be a “last resort” option has ballooned into the state’s largest insurer, thanks to a private insurance market roiled by inflation, devastating hurricanes and excessive litigation. With other insurers going bankrupt or refusing to write policies in the state, many Florida homeowners have been left with nowhere to turn but Citizens.
Not everyone is eligible for Citizens home insurance. You can get a Citizens policy only if you can’t find coverage on the private market or the premiums from other companies are more than 20% higher than the rates Citizens offers you for similar coverage.
Even if Citizens does offer you the cheapest policy, you may end up having to pay a surcharge if a major storm strikes Florida and the company doesn’t have enough funds to pay its claims. This extra cost could add up to 45% of your annual premium. And a new law requiring Citizens policyholders to buy flood insurance could further strain your budget.
These aren’t the only potential drawbacks of having a Citizens homeowners policy. The company’s coverage choices tend to be more limited than what’s available on the private market. That means your lower premiums may come with skimpier coverage.
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That said, Citizens may still be the best– or only– homeowners insurance option for many Floridians. Here’s what you need to know.
Where Citizens falls short
Coverage options. Citizens has lower coverage caps and relatively few add-on options compared to most private insurers.
Potential surcharges. If a massive storm or series of catastrophes leaves Citizens without enough money to pay its claims, by law it must charge all policyholders an assessment to help restore its funds. This assessment could cost up to 45% of your annual premium.
Citizens homeowners insurance policies are available only in Florida.
” MORE: The best home insurance companies
Citizens home insurance coverage
You can customize your homeowners policy with numerous add-ons, but below are the types of coverage that generally come standard:
|Type of coverage
|What it does
|Pays to repair or rebuild the structure of your home.
|Covers damage to unattached structures such as sheds or fences.
|Pays to repair or replace personal belongings such as furniture or clothing.
|Loss of use
|Pays for hotel stays, restaurant meals or other expenses if you have to live elsewhere while your home undergoes covered repairs.
|Covers legal expenses and damages if you’re responsible for injuries to other people or their property.
|Covers injuries to guests in your home, regardless of fault.
The dwelling coverage limit for a Citizens policy must be less than $700,000 by law in most Florida counties. (The limit must be less than $1 million in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.) If your house would cost more than this amount to rebuild, you’ll likely need to seek insurance elsewhere.
Citizens has strict limits on other types of coverage, as well. For example, its policies come with $100,000 in personal liability coverage, with no option to select more. And unlike many insurance companies, Citizens doesn’t cover dog bites or other animal liability claims.
Its coverage for jewelry is limited to $1,000, again with no option to choose a higher amount. (If your items are worth more than this, consider separate jewelry insurance.) While many homeowners policies cover your belongings anywhere in the world, Citizens won’t pay for the theft of items from any location other than your home.
Besides the standard types of coverage above, a Citizens policy may also include coverage for things like:
- Catastrophic ground cover collapse.
- Debris removal.
- Losses due to counterfeit money, forgery or the unauthorized use of credit cards.
- Upgrading your home to meet current building codes after a covered claim.
- Trees, shrubs and plants.
- Charges for the services of a fire department.
- Fungi, wet or dry rot, yeast or bacteria.
You may also be able to add the following optional types of coverage:
Sinkhole loss coverage, which pays for damage from a broader range of scenarios than the catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage included in a standard policy.
Replacement cost coverage for personal belongings, which ensures that if your stuff is stolen or damaged, Citizens will pay enough for you to buy brand-new replacements. Without this coverage, your policy will cover your belongings for their actual cash value.
Increased limits for ordinance or law coverage, which pays to bring your home in line with the latest building codes after a covered claim.
Under a 2022 law, all Citizens policyholders whose policies include coverage for wind damage must buy separate flood insurance. (A standard homeowners insurance policy doesn’t cover damage from scenarios like tidal surge or heavy rain.) The deadline for this requirement depends on where you live and the amount it would cost to rebuild your home.
If you live within a Special Flood Hazard Area as defined by the National Flood Insurance Program, you must buy flood insurance immediately (for new policies) or by the time of your next Citizens policy renewal.
If you don’t live in a Special Flood Hazard Area, you’ll need to have flood insurance by one of these deadlines.
January 1, 2024: Policies with dwelling coverage of $600,000 or more.
January 1, 2025: Policies with dwelling coverage of $500,000 or more.
January 1, 2026: Policies with dwelling coverage of $400,000 or more.
January 1, 2027: All other policies.
Depending on where you live and the kind of home you have, you may be able to save on your Citizens homeowners insurance premium by:
Installing a centrally monitored fire or burglar alarm.
Protecting your home from wind damage with hurricane shutters, a hip roof or impact-resistant windows and doors.
Insuring a relatively new home that’s compliant with recent Florida building codes.
Having a roof with certain construction features.
To get these discounts, you may need to provide documentation or have your home inspected.
Citizens had more than the expected number of complaints to state regulators relative to its size for home insurance, according to three years’ worth of data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
” MORE: The best Florida homeowners insurance
Website: Log in to my Policy, the self-service part of Citizens’ website, to see policy documents, file claims, enroll in paperless billing and make payments. Elsewhere on the site you can find information about coverage options, discounts and coping with storms. Some resources are available in Spanish or Creole as well as English.
Claims: You can report a claim 24/7 by calling 866-411-2742 or logging in to your online account. Once filed, you can also track claims through your Citizens account.
Customer service: To contact Citizens, you can send an email through the website or call 866-411-2742. Customer support is available on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. The company also offers a live chat.