"Over the past 35 years, Florida's families have paid into the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) over $16 billion, four times more than the amount they have received in claim reimbursements. We have done more than our fair share to make the NFIP financially sound. In addition, Florida's superior coastal building code standards and leading efforts in the area of hurricane loss mitigation have further reduced exposure for the NFIP. Florida's rates should commensurately reflect these important risk-mitigating factors."
-Gov. Rick Scott in a letter to Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio

DATE: September 19, 2016

Contact: Mel Montagne, FIRM Board of Directors President
422 Fleming St. #5
Key West FL 33040

Florida Insurance Commissioner Altmaier denies FIRM’s request to delay Citizens rate increase

Key West, Florida – Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier has denied a leading consumer advocate group’s request to delay the 8.9% rate increase for 2017 windstorm property insurance for Monroe County proposed by Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens). Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe (FIRM) requested the delay during a public hearing last month because of a wide disparity in the results of the four hurricane loss projection models approved by the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology (the Florida Commission).

The four models vary from one indicating a 77% increase to another indicating an 8% decrease in rates. At the hearing in Tallahassee on August 18th, Citizens Chief Actuary John Rollins acknowledged that this “significant divergence of scientific opinion” warrants further study. FIRM’s testimony sought for Citizens and OIR to obtain further guidance on the model results from the Florida Commission and highlighted the legislative mandate requiring Citizens to provide affordable insurance to its policyholders.

“I cannot find the words to express my disappointment at what I perceive to be total disregard for the residents, businesses, and governments of Monroe County, as well as for our organization,” said FIRM President Mel Montagne. “We likely have no choice but to seek redress through the courts.” To pursue this strategy, FIRM’s board has agreed to devote its regularly scheduled board meeting on Thursday, September 22 to an open forum for residents and leaders of Monroe County to unite in response to the Commissioner’s denial. Details of the public meeting will be forthcoming.

FIRM was founded in 2006 to combat escalating windstorm insurance premiums in the Florida Keys. Keys residents faced dramatic increases in windstorm coverage through Citizens, despite few claims having been filed. Analysis of premiums collected versus claims paid demonstrated the increases were not justified. FIRM succeeded in rolling back a 20% increase that had been implemented in August of 2006, and derailing a proposed 32% increase planned for 2007. Since then, FIRM was successful in slowing the rate of increase on wind insurance costs and in helping to repeal the most onerous aspects of 2012’s federal flood insurance reform. Year after year, FIRM works to hold back more increases and changes in coverage that adversely affect Keys residents. Those wishing to donate to FIRM can do so at http://firmkeys.org.

Letter to Commissioner Altmaier
August 13, 2016

Commissioner David Altmaier
Florida Office of Insurance Regulation
200 E. Gaines Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Dear Commissioner Altmaier,

FIRM and the undersigned Monroe County leaders urgently call upon you to deny or delay the proposed Citizens Property Insurance Co. (CPIC) rate increase at the August 18, 2016 rate hearing.

The legislation creating CPIC as the insurer of last resort reads in part as follows: “The State, therefore, has a compelling public interest and a public purpose to assist in assuring that property in the State is insured, and that it is insured at affordable rates…” CPIC has been raising rates continuously, well ahead of the cost of living. Furthermore, since 2003, policyholders in Monroe County have paid over $600 million in premiums in excess of paid claims. The persistent rate increases by CPIC violate a legislative mandate and threaten the economy of our communities and exacerbate the crisis in affordable housing.

The Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology has approved four catastrophe models, yet CPIC continues to base the rates on the model which is the highest of the four, and at least two of the other models do not support these proposed rates. A delay, at minimum, will offer time to determine why there is discrepancy in the models and which should be used in the future.Citizens now has more than $7 billion in surplus and the state hurricane fund with $17 billion at hand, plus offshore coverage which provides more than $2 billion in supplemental claims-paying ability.A rate increase is not only discriminatory but unjustified.

As determined by your office, Monroe County has no viable alternatives to CPIC for windstorm insurance. Without meaningful alternatives to CPIC, your rate review of CPIC’s request is critical. FIRM and the residents of Monroe County are requesting your office to deny or delayCPIC’s proposal for further rate increases.Representative Raschein has also submitted a formal request through her legislative office which we support, and we encourage you to give these important requests your consideration.


Mel Montagne, President, FIRM

Senator Anitere Flores, District 37
Representative Holly Raschein, District 120
Mayor Heather Carruthers, Monroe County
Mayor Craig Cates, City of Key West
Mayor Mark Senmartin, City of Marathon
Mayor Norman Anderson, City of Layton
Mayor Deb Gillis, Islamorada, Village of Islands
Virginia A. Panico, President, Florida Keys Federation of Chambers of Commerce
Kim Works, President, The Greater Key West Chamber of Commerce
Bill Kinsey, President, Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce
Bill Kelly, Chairman, Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce
Joe Roth, President, Islamorada Chamber of Commerce
Theresa Yong, Chair, Key Largo Chamber of Commerce
Jodi Weinhofer, President, Lodging Association of the Florida Keys and Key West
Michael Petro, President, Key West Association of Realtors
Kristen Brenner, President, Marathon and Lower Keys Association of Realtors
Joel Young, President, The Florida Keys Board of Realtors

In the news:

Keys faces increase in insurance rates again

Friday, July 01, 2016

The Florida Keys-based insurance watchdog group FIRM is gearing up for a fight with the insurance company that covers Monroe County, as the company is proposing another significant annual rate increase.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is proposing a nearly 9 percent increase for windstorm coverage in Monroe County, bringing the average premium from $3,706 a year to $4,033, according to a proposed rate increase the Citizens board of directors approved last week.

Citizens has significantly increased windstorm rates in the Keys since 2006.

Citizens, the insurer of last resort in the state, will now submit the proposal to the state Office of Insurance Regulation, which will review the proposal and make a decision in August.

Members of FIRM (Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe) have been actively lobbying Citizens about lowering rates and FIRM board Vice President Steve Russ recently traveled to a hearing in Tallahassee to oppose the rate increase, Russ said.

Russ argued that Citizens models do not take in account that Monroe County has some of the strongest building codes in the state and there has not been a significant tropical storm or hurricane to brush the Keys in more than 10 years.

"From the very beginning, the homes in the Keys were built to withstand storms," Russ said.

FIRM plans to ramp up its efforts this summer to stop the rate increase. FIRM is currently working on a $485,000 study to determine if Citizens’ rates in the Keys are accurate. The FIRM board of directors hope that enough of the study will be complete by August to come up with a "counter proposal" that would call for a smaller increase or no increase at all, said Mel Montagne, FIRM board president.

FIRM has been working on the study, which Citizens agreed to fund, for several years.

Keys property owners have consistently been hit with windstorm rate increases from Citizens since 2006, when FIRM successfully lobbied state officials to deny Citizens request for an increase, which resulted in $75 million in savings to Keys residents since then, according to Montagne.

Last year, state regulators approved an 8.3 percent increase last year, 8.1 percent increase the previous year and a 10.5 percent increase two years ago.

During the roughly 10 year period of time, Citizens earned $585 million in revenue off Keys premiums, Montagne said.

Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier argued the rates are based on actuarially sound models.

"We owe that to all of our customers, not only in the Keys but across the state," Peltier said. "The increases are warranted. They are not to boost our profit margins."

FIRM Board of Directors

Join our Board

The Board of Directors of Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe (FIRM) is now accepting nominations of individuals interested in serving on its Board of Directors.

FIRM, a grassroots organization formed in February, 2006 is comprised of homeowners and residents who are united to fight against excessive, discriminatory and unaffordable residential, condominium and commercial property insurance rates. Additional information on FIRM membership and activities can be found at www.firmkeys.org.

This is a very dynamic Board with active Legislative, Fundraising, and Media/Communications committees. Responsibilities include monthly Board Meetings and energetic participation in committee work. Engineering, lodging, grant-writing, fundraising and homeowner/condo association are areas of experience that are particularly relevant to board make-up. Middle and Upper Keys residents are encouraged to submit their interest as meetings can be attended by teleconference.

We have a limited number of open seats. Please send letter of interest and resume to FIRM / 422 Fleming Street #5 / Key West, FL 33040 or electronically to firmkeys@gmail.com by Monday, May 2nd 5:00 pm.


Key West Association of Realtors

FIRM thanks the members of the Key West Association of Realtors and their sponsors The Gardens Hotel, Centennial Bank, Keys Financial Corp. Key West Insurance, Inc., and Susie's Estate Sales for their outstanding support of FIRM at last month's KWAR Fundraiser. They raised just under $11,000! We are truly grateful to ALL of the realtors in Monroe County who help FIRM continue to fight for fair insurance rates for all of our citizens.

Golf Fundraiser

A BIG thanks to the Marathon and Lower Keys Association of Realtors for supporting FIRM once again at their golf tournament June 19 at the Key West Golf Club. We are also grateful for the continued support of Partner Level donor Isaksen Insurance. FIRM is able to continue working for fair insurance rates for the citizens of Monroe County thanks to the support of our members. Please call for additional information.

Hurricane Preparedness

Please review hurricane preparedness tips and information: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/hurricane_preparedness.html

Won’t you join them and donate to FIRM?


Level 4 Membership: Engel & Volkers

Florida Keys – March 22, 2016 - A Big Thank You to Engel & Volkers Florida Keys for its recent donation. Support from businesses and residents enables FIRM to continue our efforts for fair flood and windstorm insurance rates.

Won’t you join them in their support?

Citizens to begin educating policyholders on critical upcoming contract changes

May 11, 2016 - Citizens Property Insurance Corporation has just released important policy changes for policyholders that will take effect on July 1,2016. Click HERE for the full press release which includes a link to additional information regarding the policy changes.
Please contact FIRM if you have additional questions or need further clarification regarding this press release.


FIRM Supports State Legislation

February 20, 2016

FIRM commends State Senator Anitere Flores and State Representative Kathleen Passidomo for their leadership in sponsoring SB 1630 and HB 931 in this session of the Florida Legislature.

Full endorsement press release: HERE


FEMA Responds to Florida's
Flood Rate Request, Sort Of

February 18, 2016

After four months, FEMA responds to outgoing Florida Insurance Commissioner McCarty's request for information. But (from the report)....

"The response from FEMA, however, does not provide the rate information Florida lawmakers are looking for to ease the expense of the Florida flood insurance marketplace."

And this is why FIRM keeps working.

Full Insurance Journal report: HERE


Florida Keys Day 2016

February 16, 2016

FIRM is on the scene in Tallahassee representing our constituents at the Florida Legislature and at other government offices and activities.

Planning details here: HERE

Stay tuned for FIRM's report on this action.


Officials gather over flood insurance

February 13, 2016

FIRM Advisory Council member Monroe County Mayor Florida Association of Counties Federal Committee co-chair Heather Carruthers hosts an important Tallahassee discussions of National Flood Insurance Program rate practices.

Key West Citizen story: HERE


Community Rating System Eligibility Approved

February 3, 2016

Good news from the City of Key West for the flood-insured.

And - as stated in this City press release -- "Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe ... will play a key role in crafting the best possible application for the community."

Full press release: HERE.


Insurance reform group seeks national commissioner search

January 23, 2016

FIRM has always respected the efforts and expertise of long-time Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty.

On his upcoming departure from that role, calls are being made for a careful non-political search for a successor.

Sun Sentinel story: HERE


Seafood Festivities

January 20, 2016

(Click the pic for large view!)

Hope you made it to the Seafood Festival last weekend -- a great time was had by all! Especially our officers, directors and volunteers who were in the heart of the festival cooking and serving and raising funds for FIRM's work.

THANK YOU Centennial Bank for providing the food and "kitchen"!


FIRM at the Key West Seafood Festival

January 8, 2016

FIRM will be on the scene at Key West's big Seafood Festival next weekend (January 16 and 17).

Look for us there! (And hey FIRM members -- we can use some help!)

Details here in THIS PDF.


Wishing you a happy and prosperous new year!

January 1, 2016


You'll find our older announcements and news
included within our IN THE NEWS Page: HERE.