Florida Insurer Fined for Treatment of Policyholders After Hurricane Ian

Insurance regulators fined Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance $1 million for how it processed claims after Hurricane Ian.

Julia Taliesin
Written byJulia Taliesin
Julia Taliesin
Julia TaliesinContent Writer

Julia Taliesin is a Content Writer at Insurify. She began her career as a journalist, covering local government and business in Somerville, Mass. She reported multiple investigative stories about municipal finances and budget allocation, building development and inspection, and personnel. When the pandemic began she became a de facto public health reporter, writing daily and weekly reports using available data to quickly communicate rates of infection and city response.

She's worked for print and digital outlets, writing everything from quick-hit breaking news to long-form community features. More recently, Julia managed content strategy at a startup creating a social platform for licensed nurses, overseeing a team of nurse freelancers and editing interview transcripts and news articles for publication.

She holds a Bachelor's degree in communications from Simmons University, with a focus in journalism. Outside of work, Julia enjoys working on crafting projects, learning about homesteading, and singing in cover bands.

Evelyn Pimplaskar
Evelyn PimplaskarEditor-in-Chief, Director of Content
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Evelyn leads Insurify’s content team. She’s passionate about creating empowering content to help people transform their financial lives and make sound insurance-buying decisions.

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John Leach
Reviewed byJohn Leach
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John LeachSenior Insurance Copy Editor
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John leads Insurify’s copy desk, helping ensure the accuracy and readability of Insurify’s content. He’s a licensed agent specializing in home and car insurance topics.

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Published June 3, 2024 at 5:00 AM PDT | Reading time: 2 minutes

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Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance was slow to pay and respond to claims, kept poor records, and used improperly licensed adjusters following Hurricane Ian, Florida insurance regulators found after an investigation. Regulators fined the insurer $1 million following the probe – one of the largest fines the state has ever administered against an insurer.

The Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) reviewed 324 claims in a “targeted market conduct examination” and found numerous state law violations.

Heritage Insurance has agreed to pay the fine, the Miami Herald reported.

What the regulators discovered

The OIR examination report shared 10 findings about the randomly sampled claims and found Heritage didn’t:

  • Acknowledge it had received communication about a claim within 14 days. (30.2% of claims)

  • Ensure licensed adjusters provided a document with their name and license number to policyholders if the process required a physical inspection. (42.9%)

  • Pay or deny claims within 90 days. (21.6%)

  • Include the adjuster’s name and license number in communications about a claim. (20.4%)

Heritage violated nine state laws, according to the OIR findings, but the report also found the company repeatedly violated its own policy. In more than half the sampled claims, adjusters didn’t initiate voice contact with policyholders within one business day of receiving a claim assignment. Heritage’s 2022 claims handling manual requires this contact.

Heritage CEO Ernie Garateix told the Herald the company had noticed the issues internally and has taken action, including creating a new governance and compliance director role and getting a new claims management software.

Florida’s perfect storm

Hurricane Ian hit Florida as a Category 4 hurricane in September 2022. It was the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history, causing $112 billion in damage.

Ian’s destruction created one more obstacle for Florida’s already struggling insurance market, which was facing increasingly frequent severe weather, insurance fraud, and excessive litigation.

The average annual homeowners insurance premium in Florida is $10,996, the highest in the nation, according to Insurify data. Louisiana ranks second, with an average premium of $6,354 per year.

What’s next: Slightly reducing rates

A few weeks after Heritage agreed to pay the fine, the company announced Florida regulators had approved a 3.3% rate decrease for its standard home insurance policies. The new rate will become effective Aug. 20 for new and renewed policies.

The company credited Florida’s positive legislative changes.

“Our commitment to providing Florida with affordable and reliable insurance solutions remains steadfast,” said Garateix in a press release. “The approved rate decrease is a testament to our efforts in effective risk management and strategic underwriting practices, as well as the favorable impact of legislative changes made in the 2022 special session of the Florida legislature.”

The average annual Heritage Insurance premium is $9,096, according to Insurify data. A 3.3% decrease will lower that to $8,796.


Julia Taliesin
Julia TaliesinContent Writer

Julia Taliesin is a Content Writer at Insurify. She began her career as a journalist, covering local government and business in Somerville, Mass. She reported multiple investigative stories about municipal finances and budget allocation, building development and inspection, and personnel. When the pandemic began she became a de facto public health reporter, writing daily and weekly reports using available data to quickly communicate rates of infection and city response.

She's worked for print and digital outlets, writing everything from quick-hit breaking news to long-form community features. More recently, Julia managed content strategy at a startup creating a social platform for licensed nurses, overseeing a team of nurse freelancers and editing interview transcripts and news articles for publication.

She holds a Bachelor's degree in communications from Simmons University, with a focus in journalism. Outside of work, Julia enjoys working on crafting projects, learning about homesteading, and singing in cover bands.

Evelyn Pimplaskar
Edited byEvelyn PimplaskarEditor-in-Chief, Director of Content
Evelyn Pimplaskar
Evelyn PimplaskarEditor-in-Chief, Director of Content
  • 10+ years in insurance and personal finance content

  • 30+ years in media, PR, and content creation

Evelyn leads Insurify’s content team. She’s passionate about creating empowering content to help people transform their financial lives and make sound insurance-buying decisions.

Featured in

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John Leach
Reviewed byJohn LeachSenior Insurance Copy Editor
Photo of an Insurify author
John LeachSenior Insurance Copy Editor
  • Licensed property and casualty insurance agent

  • 8+ years editing experience

John leads Insurify’s copy desk, helping ensure the accuracy and readability of Insurify’s content. He’s a licensed agent specializing in home and car insurance topics.

Featured in

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