Citizens insurance has record 1.5 million policies

Busloads of policyholders attended Citizens Property Insurance's rate hearing last month. (Courtesy of John Fox, a spokesman for Policyholders of Florida)

Citizens Property Insurance, the state’s largest home insurer, has more customers than ever — only this time, it’s not because the state has just been hit by hurricanes.

The state-run insurer has 1.46 million policies, higher than similar peaks in 1996 and 2007 when it had more than 1.4 million policies and more than 1.3 million policies, respectively.

Scott Wallace, president of Citizens, said at a board meeting Wednesday that the prolonged economic downturn is one reason: Private insurers aren’t growing much, and many are avoiding hurricane and sinkhole risk. In that way, Wallace said, Citizens is meeting its goal of operating as a last-resort insurer.

Citizens' policies also are cheaper in some areas such as southwestern, central and northern Florida. State law caps premium increases at 10 percent a year. Some private insurers are raising rates by more than that, Wallace said.

Graph by John Rollins, president of Rollins Analytics, comparing Citizens' average premium with that of subsidiaries of national insurers, Florida-based companies and others. Click to enlarge: