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'I don't want to sell:' Insurance hikes impacting seniors on fixed income

'I alerted my family I’m going to be needing help or else I will have to sell and I don’t want to sell,' Carmen Sifonte says
Posted at 6:38 PM, May 07, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Carmen Sifonte has seen some high premium increases the last couple years for her Hypoluxo home.

"I cried about it; I took a whole day of crying about it," she said after receiving notice that her Citizens Insurance policy was going up another $300.

Since 2021, she said her insurance has climbed $3,000, making any hike difficult to bear with her fixed income, as she also battles a cancer diagnosis.

Carmen Sifonte cancer insurance crisis May 2024
Carmen Sifonte says she cannot afford the insurance rate hikes on a fixed income and has also been diagnosed with cancer.

"I alerted my family I’m going to be needing help or else I will have to sell and I don’t want to sell," she said.

Increases from Citizens are capped by state law, but the rates are going up.

"It's going to happen on everybody, Citizens is going to go up," Robert Norberg of Arden Insurance in Lantana said.

Robert Norberg, Arden Insurance speaks about Florida insurance companie
Robert Norberg of Arden Insurance in Lantana speaks about the growing number of home insurance companies no longer doing business in Florida.

Citizens is in the process of trying to trim back hundreds of thousands of policies to reduce its exposure and also bring rates up to private market levels.

"I’ve spoken to policyholders particularly in South Florida, folks don’t want to leave Citizens, sometimes and in many cases were cheaper," said Citizens CEO Tim Cerio at a recent insurance roundtable in Clearwater.

"That’s not a good thing," Cerio said.

 Citizens Insurance CEO Tim Cerio Tallahassee 01112024 .png
Citizens Insurance CEO Tim Cerio explains why he is trying to lower the number of Citizens policies.

For seniors like Carmen, there are no other options, no other insurers willing to offer a policy on her home built in 1958.

"The problem we have like in this lady’s case is eligibility for other carriers," Norberg said. "She’s not going to qualify based on the age of the roof, age of the building, location."

If you have a question or comment about homeowners insurance, email WPTV reporter Matt Sczesny at matt.sczesny@wptv.com