Miami-based Northern Capital Insurance goes under
With Miami-based Northern Capital Insurance no longer solvent, thousands of South Florida homeowners will need to find a new insurance company.
BY NIRVI SHAH
Less than two months before the start of hurricane season, Miami-based Northern Capital Insurance is going under.
State insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said this week that Northern Capital, with about 70,000 policies, many of them in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, is insolvent. The state suggested Northern customers should immediately find insurance with another company.
Although the company is less than four years old and the state has not experienced a major hurricane since it opened, the company had less than $4 million in reserves, which is in violation of state law.
The company, started just four years ago, rocketed to such exponential growth it topped Inc. Magazine’s list of fastest-growing private companies last year.
Messages left at the company’s Miami offices were not returned Thursday.
The state had been working with Northern Capital for nearly a year. In a statement, the Office of Insurance Regulation said their attempts to keep the company afloat were in vain.
“Even after these extensive efforts, Northern Capital no longer meets the minimum capital and surplus requirements, is unable to raise sufficient additional capital to continue operations, and all other discussions to sell the company have come to an end,” the statement said.
The company is one of several recently established insurers in Florida that are in financial trouble because they haven’t been unable to raise sufficient funds to cover their expenses.
During the past year, 10 Florida companies, including Northern Capital, lost positive ratings by Demotech, a Columbus, Ohio-based rating agency.
The Miami Herald reported last month that, based on insurers’ 2009 annual reports, 50 out of 70 Florida-based companies posted losses on their insurance business for the year and 31 of the companies reported a drop in reserves — money set aside to pay claims.
The Heartland Institute’s Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate in Washington, D.C., rated Florida one of two F’s on its third annual report card about property and casualty state insurance regulation.
“America’s state-level insurance bureaucracies make it difficult — sometimes impossible — for insurers to offer consumers the products they need, want, and deserve,” the report said.
Northern Capital went under despite the approval of a 10 percent rate hike for some policies last October.
Jeff Grady, president of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, said despite Northern Capital’s financial woes, the company continued to sell policies as recently as Wednesday, despite state claims the company stopped sales in December.
“Agents as a result of that are out a significant amount of commission income,” he said. “And it’s a tragedy for consumers just before hurricane season.”
The state suggested that customers shop for new policies. If they can’t find a replacement, they can turn to state-run Citizens Property Insurance.
If policyholders wait, it’s likely their insurance will be canceled anyway. The state said once Northern Capital is ordered to liquidate, all policies will be canceled within 30 days.
“Consumers are likely in for higher prices and a big hassle,” Grady said.