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Independent Agents Busy with State Farm Exiting Property Market in Florida

Source: Thomson

Posted on 09 Feb 2009

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With State Farm's decision to leave the property insurance market in Florida, independent insurance agents are busy picking up business to replace the coverage.

However, some local agents have mixed feelings about the situation. While State Farm's announcement is good for their business, they say it might be bad for the insurance industry.

"We've had a tremendous amount of calls for quotes," said Selena Leal, personal lines manager for Wells and Associates Insurance Agency Inc., which has been in business since 1983. "We have put in a lot of overtime lately."

State Farm announced last month that it is discontinuing insurance for homeowners, renters, rental condominium unit-owners, contractors, condominium unit-owners, rental dwellings, manufactured homes, businesses, churches, boats, personal articles, apartments, commercial inland marine, commercial liability and personal liability.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. wants to continue to offer auto, life and health insurance.

State Farm's decision is a "big concern" for Leal -- especially if Florida experiences a horrendous hurricane season like 2004. She said people will be unhappy getting claims paid.

"A lot of smaller companies don't have capital like State Farm," Leal said.

She noted there are "very few" A.M. Best rated companies in Florida. A. M. Best issues financial strength ratings about insurance companies.

Eva Martinez, manager/agent for Southern Insurance, said people are worried about having to pay higher premiums. Martinez said there are many companies that are competitive with State Farm.

Southern Insurance has been in business for 30 years, according to Martinez. The company handles homeowners, auto, commercial and personal lines.

"Get the best policy for your money and your needs," Martinez said.

George Hensley, vice president of Heacock Insurance, said his employees are talking with State Farm customers who are unhappy and want to drop State Farm entirely.

Hensley, who said companies come and go in Florida, doesn't want to see State Farm leave because it will cause "such an upset of the market place."

"The independent agency system can pick up the slack," he said. "People may have to hunt around, particularly in the coastal areas."

Nina Banister, public information officer for the Florida Division of Consumer Services, said there is "some anger" from people who have called. Banister noted that other callers have asked how they can continue with State Farm.

Banister said customers don't have to do anything immediately. State Farm has to submit a withdrawal plan.

She advises to shop and compare and to make sure you are getting the coverage you want.