Nationwide To Drop 39,000 Homeowner Insurance Policies In Florida

With each passing hurricane it becomes more difficult for homeowners in the gulf states to secure howeowner insurance policies. Now Nationwide has announced that they are dropping 39,000 policies in Florida. This follows announcements from Allstate and and State Farm that they were dropping 156,000 policies due to the 2004-2005 hurricane season.

“It goes without saying that this is a difficult business decision, but one we need to make to continue to be there for our remaining customers,” spokesman Eric Hardgrove said.

Ugh. Being a corn-fed Midwestern type and all that, we don’t have much experience with this sort of thing. Anyone have any advice for the soon-to-be uninsured?

Nationwide dropping coverage for thousands of Florida homeowners [Sun-Sentinel]
(Photo:Bob Jagendorf)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Buran says:

    This makes me NOT want to move there, but trying to get my bf to consider moving up to where I live is proving to be frustratingly difficult.

  2. beyond says:

    You end up going with the state insurance program. That’s what I had to do for my windstorm. It is very expensive.

  3. tinychicken says:

    And people consistently ridicule us Nor’Easters for putting up with snow and cold. Here in Buffalo my house won’t blow away, be submerged under water, or fall into the earth. Here, 5 feet of snow in 1 day just means we need to walk to the bar instead of drive and layer our socks.

  4. Gotta love insurance companies. They screw everyone over and over and over.

  5. milty45654 says:

    “Here in Buffalo my house won’t blow away, be submerged under water, or fall into the earth.”

    Good. Don’t move down here when the bitter cold starts to last longer as global warming melts the ice caps, cools the water, and causes a new ice age. Stay up there and freeze, please.

    Also, stop selling your houses, coming down here and buying 2, just to mark it up and make profit on people who cannot afford decent housing.

  6. ChrisC1234 says:

    Insurance companies are the scum of the earth. They don’t care about their clients, they care about making money. If they don’t make ENOUGH money.

    Homeowners insurance is one of those “services” that you pay for where you will be DROPPED if you actually USE the service.

  7. davere says:

    It was easier for me to get a mortgage (nice low 30 year fixed rate) than to find home insurance. It took me 3 days and countless of hours on the phone.

  8. warf0x0r says:

    Wow, I need to be in the insurance business. I can chose the lowest “risk” area to do business and then just sit there and milk em for what it’s worth and if things get too dicey, I just move somewhere else and start the whole thing over again.

  9. bravo369 says:

    The insurance industry needs an overhaul. To me, they are the equivalent of the mafia. They want money from everyone but dump anyone that might actually need it returned eventually.

  10. headon says:

    Not having insurance is fine. It saves the phone call to the company for an explanation as to why they won’t pay the claim.

  11. MENDOZA!!!!! says:

    over ten comments and not one “Nationwide is on your side” joke yet?
    for shame people, for shame.

  12. tinychicken says:

    @milty45654: I love a good strip mall as much as the next gal but I think I’ll try to resist the urge to snatch up your real estate. If I decide otherwise you’ll be the first to know. I’m sure we’ll become best buds!

  13. Zgeg says:

    You couldn’t pay me to live in Florida.. My mother moved down there and every time I visit I only stay half as long as planned becasue I just can’t take it anymore.. Between the heat and the fact that no matter what direction you look in the only thing you see is something that is man made, and it is usually a strip mall.. No thanks, I’ll take four seasons and a mountain view any day of the week..

    Live free or die!! (guess where I live)

  14. liquisoft says:

    It’s unfair to their customers to drop them simply because there is the likelihood of future problems. Florida is a hurricane-ridden state, and this is something the country has known for at least 100 years. It’s not like hurricanes just magically appeared a couple years back and Nationwide is surprised.

    I would understand if Nationwide and other insurance companies decided not to insure any additional customers in that region, but to drop current customers simply because of the possibility that there would need to be a payout is unconscionable.

    Nationwide and the other insurance companies (Allstate, State Farm, etc) ought to pay Early Termination Fees to their customers for cutting their contracts. I’m more than certain the insurance companies would expect some sort of compensation if their customers decided to cut and run prematurely.

    To the residents who no longer have insurance: why are you living in Florida anyway? The state is riddled with hurricanes, and now that nobody is willing to insure you against the certain demise of your homes and properties, it makes sense to either move to a different part of Florida or just get out of that region altogether.

  15. Spotpuff says:

    Insurance companies price risk. If something is too risky they can charge everyone more or drop the risky policy. Have you ever tried getting life insurance if you are 65 and a smoker? Good luck. If you don’t like it, you can always invest the cash yourself that you would pay in premiums into an account and let the money accrue there.

    Or here’s an idea: don’t live in an area that is constantly hit by hurricanes and expect to be able to get insured for it. The rates would be through the roof otherwise for everybody; there’s no free lunch in the world, SOMEONE has to pay for the damages. And when a catastrophic event such as a flood, hurricane or earthquake hits, either everyone pays ridiculously high rates to cover the costs or the risky policies get dropped. Pick your poison.

  16. llcooljabe says:

    All you folks slamming the insurance industry, take a moment to consider a few facts. Insurers are in it to make money (no one is disputing this). Money in insurance is based on risk. If the risk of paying out is too high, why do it. If you had an investment opportunity that you knew would lose money, would you do it? neither would I. so why are insurers the bad guys here?

    To make matters worse, the florida government has artificially lowered premiums in florida to appease its constituents. Actuaries have sophisticated methods to forecast future payouts. In florida, insurers routinely pay out way more than $1 for every $1 they take in. however, the goverment won’t let them charge appropriately for it.

    now insurance companies are getting out of florida because of the added risk. These uninsured homeowners are going to the insurer of last resort (the state). Watch, within 10 years, a hurricane is going to bankrupt the state.

  17. Buran says:

    @beyond: Isn’t that temporary? The bf ended up on it for a bit but he had to find a private policy because the state wouldn’t cover him forever.

  18. ncboxer says:

    @Zgeg: Russia?

  19. Buran says:

    @Zgeg: They can’t drive in Florida, either. That I don’t miss.

  20. Caswell says:

    I live on the Atlantic coast of Florida, in a small town that wants to stay small.

    What blows me away are my neighbors who will still buy their auto insurance from companies that won’t even consider them for homeowner’s insurance. I had been a State Farm customer for life, and when they told me they wouldn’t cover my home I told them they wouldn’t be covering anything.

    Perhaps if my neighbors held the same attitude and the various State Farm / Allstate / Nationwide / etc agents in Florida started going out of business completely then their parent companies might start to have a change of heart. Florida and the rest of the Gulf and southeast Atlantic coast aren’t exactly small potatoes.

  21. Caswell says:


    Please show me where premiums have actually been lowered.

    I think you might be getting that idea from the fact that the state government has to approve year-over-year rate increases over a certain percentage and they’ve recently stopped some of the larger increases.

    Like the Federal government, the industry is claiming that they’re facing cuts when the reality is that they’re simply not getting the year-over-year increase they want. If that makes their risk unattractive, so be it. Seeing an actual rate reduction isn’t something I’ve seen any evidence of.

  22. pestie says:

    @tinychicken: I’m currently in the process of getting my house (in Florida) ready to sell so I can move to Buffalo. Many people think I’m insane, and I really do hate cold weather, but I can’t even begin to tell you how sick I am of Florida. And I can buy a house for a reasonable price in Buffalo.

  23. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    Of course, the fact that the insurance companies are having some bad times, due to bad investments (mortgage backed securities, anyone?) isn’t a factor, eh?

    My late sister suffered some wind damage from the last hurricane to blow through the Gulf into Ft Myers. Insurer said it wasn’t covered. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Money wasted either way.

  24. ekthesy says:

    If I may be permitted to play devil’s advocate for a moment, it’s not Nationwide’s fault that developers and buyers are choosing to live on land (and in some cases, calling it “land” is being generous) that does not fare particularly well in hurricanes.

    Obviously I’m exaggerating a bit here, but this is somewhat analogous to building your house on top of the train tracks, and then getting angry when Nationwide won’t insure it. At some point, the train’s going to come through and obliterate your house.

  25. @liquisoft: “It’s not like hurricanes just magically appeared a couple years back and Nationwide is surprised.”

    Part of the problem is that in the last 20 years, coastal building restrictions have relaxed, and rate of building has dramatically increased, while the quality of building materials has generally fallen and the “locality” of building (nationwide) has almost disappeared. The same house is plunked down in a Minnesota flood plain, a Florida hurricane zone, an Iowa tornado alley. The same house in the snow belt and the sun belt, so it can cost an arm and a leg to heat and/or cool by not being appropriate to the climate.

    The response of Florida (and other coastal states) has been to allow this growth to continue, particularly smack on the coast where property values soar and the tax rolls grow fat, while forcing regulations on insurance companies that make it impossible for them to make a profit — or even break even. Some require a company that wants to do business in one part of the state to do business with ALL parts of the state, regardless of risk; others are at least considering refusing to allow insurers in to insure cars unless they’ll also insure homes.

    The appropriate government response would be to more tightly restrict building in hurricane-sensitive areas and to make building codes more restrictive. This is why people can still get insurance in California! The building codes for earthquake zones are insane — and they work to minimize damage. The state could also build an emergency fund or a reinsurance scheme to backstop insurers for very serious disasters. The insurance problem wouldn’t be nearly so serious if Florida would tie on a pair and stop allowing cheap hurricane-vulnerable McMansions to be build on sensitive land.

    Not that insurance companies aren’t relatively evil in the grand scheme of things. I’m not really sure it’s a sector that it’s ethically appropriate to run for-profit at all. But Florida has given some of these companies no real choice — they can operate as a charity serving up cash to the state of Florida, or they can leave.

  26. margarrita says:

    Everyone is forgetting something very important about insurance rates. When a company is a national insurer, such as State Farm or Nationwide, people in every state are affected by what happens in every other state. If a company has more overall claims expenses, the expense gets passed down to policyholders. For example, after Katrina, policyholders in the Midwest saw rate increases even though they were not directly affected by the hurricane.

    Yes, the insurance companies are opening themselves up to pay out less in claims by leaving Florida. But those who don’t live in Florida benefit because when the national company is paying less in claims overall, its rates in other regions will decrease.

  27. GearheadGeek says:

    Having grown up in tornado country, I absolutely cannot understand moving to a hurricane-prone area. I guess it’s an issue of how far ahead you think. I understand snowbirds with a nice RV driving it down in the winter (when it’s not hurricane season) and driving back to their fixed home that’s not on the coast in the summer when it IS hurricane season, but I can’t see why someone would voluntarily roll those dice year after year. The beach just ain’t THAT nice (especially on most of the Gulf Coast.)

    Now through a twist of fate, I find myself back in tornado country. A twister will lay waste to your dwelling just as effectively as a big hurricane, and with much less warning but at least they’re not a hundred miles across. I’ll have to take my chances for a few years (and will DEFINITELY keep up the homeowner’s policy payments) and hope the next destination has even less exciting weather. This house has been here 55 years so far, and there have been some big tornadoes in the general vicinity in that time. Either it’s in a good location or it’s next up.

  28. TechnoDestructo says:


    Insurers are the bad guy because they have a history of taking these bets and then welshing on them. Getting out of a market is one thing, and you’re not going to find many people condemning them for that, compared to not meeting the obligations that they accepted.

    Anyhow, if people can’t get insurance, maybe they should start building hurricane proof homes…like aerodynamic concrete domes with steel shutters on the windows, built on concrete piers. Park the car under the house. Worst case, you lose the car, and you have to have your power, telephone, and cable lines repaired. Might be more expensive to build, but it’s cheaper than building twice.

  29. mconfoy says:

    Good for them and smart by them. Tear down the dunes, build on the coast, then pay to fix my house? Please. Tough luck.

  30. GearheadGeek says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Geographically-sensitive architecture? What are you, un-American? Joe Schmoe has every right to buy exactly the same McMansion in Miami Beach, Long Beach or Cannon Beach. Damnation take considerations of durability, livability or affordability, I want french provincial/tudor/federal/, I want it right here in this new development with restrictive covenants so my neighbors can’t xeriscape their yard and I want it CHEAP!

    If people were geographically and environmentally intelligent about construction, different parts of the country would still LOOK different, energy costs could be reduced, and huge numbers of people would move from places like Phoenix and LA because they don’t like living in deserts, rather than draining others areas of water to irrigate their lawns and golf courses. Oh, and they might not build as much in coastal Florida, since there’s a good chance it’ll get blown away by the next Cat4+ hurricane to come along.

  31. Caswell says:


    The entire east coast and gulf coast of the United States is “hurricane prone”. Move west and you’ve got flooding, tornado alley, ice storms, and all sorts of other natural wonders that will mess up your day. Keep going further west and you’ve got earthquakes and the like.

    Eyebrows brings up an interesting point about building codes. Miami-Dade has some of the most stringent building codes for wind and flood after Andrew, and many counties have piggybacked off of that. Too bad the building materials aren’t what they used to be. When a cat 2 and cat 3 struck our county in ’04 there were more people dealing with damage on their brand new “name brand” homes than those of us with older homes built in the 70’s.

    We’ve had a cat 1 roll through, and with the shutters down you wouldn’t know anything was going on outside. I’ve been in newer homes that sounded as if they were going to fall over from a tropical storm.

  32. Buran says:

    @GearheadGeek: I sure hope you’re being funny. I think so, but you never know.

  33. llcooljabe says:

    @Caswell: The first article that came up on google: [],0,6740259.story describes the state doi’s disappointment that rates “only” came down 7%, when they were estimating a 24% reduction. This estimate is based on changes made to the state’s catastrophe fund that weren’t really that big a deal.

    What one has to realize is that insurers buy insurance for themselves–it’s called reinsurance. This is to spread the risk. Reinsurance prices are through the roof on Florida, because they’re well aware of the risk associated with a Florida risk.

    what’s even more ironic about this is that the florida cat fund itself realizes that it’s in over their heads, and they are trying to find reinsurance, but cannot.

    The floriday property insurance market is messed up. I sure don’t want to subsidize Florida with my state’s good low premium, do you? That’s essentially what the florida government is asking hte insurance companies to do–take a [huge] loss in Florida and offset it with profits in other parts of the country.

  34. llcooljabe says:

    @TechnoDestructo: what haven’t they met their obligations on? If they don’t believe that their policy covers a loss, then wouldn’t it be their responsibility to deny the claim defend their position?

    If someone fell on your neighbor’s property, but sued you, why should you be responsible?

    Of course, I’m not claiming insurers are 100% innocent. They’re not. However they get a lot more bad press than they deserve.

    Full disclosure: I’m in the business.

  35. Caswell says:


    Interesting. Perhaps it’s because I live on the Atlantic coast, but the large insurers are either dropping people or giving massive rate increases to every one of my neighbors who is still carried by them. I haven’t heard a peep about anyone’s rates dropping.

    Anywho, it’s a small price to pay as far as I’m concerned. I’ve lived all over the eastern US and there’s no place I could live. Of course being a surfer has a lot to do with that I’m sure.

  36. andrewsmash says:

    Why bother with anything other than home-owners? Whenever there is a big disaster, we (via the US Government) end up paying the bills, cause otherwise the poor little insurance companies might go broke (which I take as proof that they over-extend themselves and make promises they can’t keep.) It’s just another subsidized corporation that exists to make money for the upper 10%.

  37. texasannie says:

    Florida is useless as anything other than a wildlife refuge. There’s a difference between hurricane-prone and hurricane-freaking-guaranteed.

  38. Chese says:

    My insurance company, USAA has said something similar about Florida in so much as they will only cover one home in Florida. They said in the last ten years they have paid 220 million more than what they collected in premiums. Thats is not good business for sure. I think its time to build better houses in areas certain to be hit by hurricanes. Think of it as an earthquake code for the east coast.

  39. @Caswell: “flooding, tornado alley, ice storms”

    I live in a place where all three of these things happen. Tornadoes are ENORMOUSLY localized. A hurricane that hits Florida will necessarily hit a populated area. More than half of tornadoes in the midwest simply don’t; even the biggest ones are little bitty things. A “bad” tornado might destroy five houses. (That one in Kansas, like the Plainfield tornado from years ago, was catastrophic — and unusual.) It sucks balls if it’s YOUR house it lands on, but tornado country is still a good bet for insurers.

    Ice storms damage utilities, mostly electricity. They don’t do a whole lot of damage to houses (unless your plumbing is unprepared to cope with winter). Folks in the midwest who live on a flood plain TYPICALLY build for it (well, for the 10-year floods, not the 100-year floods). And typically our homeowners policies don’t cover flood damage. My house is on high ground, but we still plan for basement flooding with the spring rains and the house was built (and finished, and insured) accordingly.

    Hurricanes occur on a scale that simply doesn’t occur with most other disasters, and they occur quite predictably every year (whereas earthquakes, say, are far less frequent).

    Since people get accustomed to their own disasters, I’m not sure hurricane folks really understand how localized many other disaster types really are. God knows my Floridian husband is still adjusting to this concept that tornadoes are little bitty things (and don’t give five days’ warning!).

  40. JustAGuy2 says:


    They aren’t cancelling anyone’s contract, they’re just not renewing existing policies. No ETF involved.

  41. Sudonum says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:
    Eyebrows, for the first time reading one of your usual well thought out responses, I have to disagree. I am not a Florida resident however I have done work on both large commercial and residential projects there. I am currently licensed as a Residential Building Contractor in Florida.

    Building codes in Florida in since Hurricane Andrew have gotten more and more stringent. I believe Andrew occurred 1992. approximately 15 years ago. Since then Florida has adopted a code using the most stringent portions of both the SBC (Standard Building Code)and the IBC (International Building Code) I will list a few of the highlights:

    1)Windows must withstand wind loads of up to 130 MPH and have either impact resistant glass or permanently installed and approved hurricane shutters.

    2)Doors must meet similar requirements.

    3)Houses must be fully sheathed with plywood, OSB, or similar material to help withstand shear loads.

    4)Roofing may only be installed by a licensed and insured ROOFING contractor. A GC cannot install roofs at all.

    5)All licensed contractors must obtain CEU’s as a condition of renewal.

    There are many more, these are just a few that come to mind. Their code is also changing every year to make houses stronger and take advantage of new technology and techniques. Recently they also fixed a big mistake they made earlier. The included all of the Panhandle counties in the more stringent Coastal Wind Zone. Previously they had exempted those counties because local politicians argued that the Panhandle “never has hurricanes” Hurricane Ivan changed all that. These changes are all very similar to the changes California made in their building code after the Sylmar quake (’72’?). I know because I was there.

    And while I up here on my soap box on the 2nd anniversary of Katrina. Those of you telling people in FL to just move. Well then I guess we should abandon the whole eastern seaboard, because one of the worst hurricanes in history hit Long Island in the ’30’s. And while we’re at it lets clear out Tornado Alley, and the whole Mississippi flood plane. Oh and California too with those pesky earthquakes. What does that leave us?

  42. Sudonum says:

    I have been told that the big insurers in Florida (Allstate, State Farm, etc) are incorporated there as Florida Corporations. They don’t spread their losses out over the entire country Therefore a loss in Florida affects (theoretically) only Florida rates.

    In Louisiana, the losses from Katrina were spread out to rate payers throughout the country. But then isn’t that how insurance is supposed to work? Losses from one area offset by profits in another?

    Now, as to why your rates went up after Katrina I suggest you ask your insurance company. Because despite making record payouts, they also made record profits, that year.

  43. megnificent says:

    Just a note for everyone out there blaming this on waterfront McMansions, not everyone who gets dropped by their homeowner’s insurance company is a rich a**hole who thinks building in a flood plain is a good idea. At my last house in Dunedin, we got dropped twice because there were a lot of sinkhole homes in that town.
    A good number of the policies being dropped by Nationwide are in a LANDLOCKED county (Polk.) I’d like to know the reasoning behind that.

  44. Bryan Price says:

    @llcooljabe: Florida has threatened insurers to not drop homes, that didn’t work, so they’ve offered up a carrot (having the state offer to reinsure the insurance companies at rates below market) and they are STILL dropping homes.

    Dropping rates? You MUST be joking! My mortgage has gone up over $200/month just to cover the increased escrow to pay the insurance in the past two years. We haven’t had a claim. After two years of refinancing the house, we get a letter from the mortgage company saying that we are out of compliance because our insurance doesn’t have a 5% deductible on hurricane loss. I call the insurance company, and our only choices are 10% (what I have) and 15%. They did not offer 5% — at any cost. I had the mortgage company contact the insurance company and haven’t heard boo in two years now about it.

    About the only thing I haven’t done to prevent hurricane damage is to get custom made metal shutters for the windows and doors. Maybe I should, but that’s a pretty big expense, and it’s still not going to affect my insurance either. I am lucky that I have a hipped roof instead of a dormer roof. That is a help with the insurance. And to help keep damage minimized, I’ve removed all the large pines in my yard, leaving only the neighbors’ pines and the large magnolia (that if it fell over, would at least graze the house) to terrify me.

    I like living here in Florida, although I’d still prefer to live in Columbus, Ohio. It would be nice to actually enjoy a crisp morning sometime. If it gets too expensive (doubtful, we’re too close to paying off the house actually), the last set of twins graduates next spring. Nothing (not even jobs) to tie us here.

  45. Bryan Price says:

    @Buran: It’s only temporary if you can pick up another insurance company. You think that’s happening with all these other insurance companies dropping like rocks?

  46. Bryan Price says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Yes, the growth here in Florida is horrible. However, the building standards have been going up, not down. My home is decent, being all brick and having a hipped roof. The weak points are going to be the glass points, windows and doors. And those will be upgraded when we finally get around to replacing all the windows, which is due here. In fact, two years ago IIRC they cranked the standards up even more.

  47. FLConsumer says:

    @Cassifras: Damnit, you beat me to it.

  48. Greeper says:

    I’m surprised that anyone would support a state requiring someone to do business somewhere where they don’t want to and where they are sure to lose money. This is America. Insurance companies shouldn’t be allowed to walk away if the risk isn’t worth the return. And people shouldn’t live where it’s sure to flood, either.

  49. Greeper says:

    I meant, should be allowed to walk away

  50. Chairman-Meow says:

    “It goes without saying that this is a difficult business decision, but one we need to make to continue to be there for our remaining customers,” spokesman Eric Hardgrove said.”

    Here, let me churn that through our corporate translator.

    Just a sec….

    Ah! here it is.

    Translation: “How can we afford to reward our executives with obscene bonuses when people go around filing claims AND expecting to be paid?”

  51. Caswell says:


    Ironic to hear that comment from someone with Texas in their name. Texas is a gulf coast state, is it not?

    Like Texas, there’s a big difference between different regions of Florida. Watch what goes on when a storm makes its way into the gulf -there’s no way you could pay me to live on the gulf coast of any state; Texas, Florida, or otherwise. I’d be hesitant about the southern Atlantic coast as well. By the time you get up into the central Atlantic coast and beyond you’re just as likely to get whacked by a hurricane in the Carolinas.

    Eyebrows makes a good point about folks becoming desensitized to their own local natural disasters. I’ve lived through hurricanes and ice storms, and the impact was roughly the same for most homeowners – minor damage to homes, loss of power, loss of water, etc. You just don’t get the helicopter flyovers of leveled trailer parks with ice storms.

  52. milty45654 says:

    “You couldn’t pay me to live in Florida.. My mother moved down there and every time I visit I only stay half as long as planned becasue I just can’t take it anymore.. Between the heat and the fact that no matter what direction you look in the only thing you see is something that is man made, and it is usually a strip mall.. No thanks, I’ll take four seasons and a mountain view any day of the week..
    Live free or die!! (guess where I””

    Strip mall? Your nuts. I grew up in Jersey. You want malls stay up there. You want fresh air, clean water, nice weather…come to Florida. Hurricanes are nothing if you prepare for them. There is always ample time to do that..unlike the floods, tornadoes, earthquakes etc that the rest of the country gets to deal with. Keep scraping your car out every winter…ill start mine up and just be on my way. suckers

  53. MrEvil says:

    I don’t think this is happening in Texas. Farmer’s pulled some similar crap a few year’s ago. They tried weaseling out of some howeowners policies. The state told them if they wanted out of those specific policies they would forfeit their licence to issue all policies in the state. Or something like that.

    Texas has been pretty good historically about keeping the homeowners insurers in line. So at least our high property taxes are good for something. My dad and I have never had a problem filing a claim on our roof for hail damage and we’ve never had threats of cancellation. We only get wood roofing (which isn’t cheap) and hailstorms happen almost every year. However, I think our insurance company has seen the wisdom in letting us keep the wood roof. We’ve replaced our wood roof about a third as often as the neighbors.