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Local insurance agent deals with his own insurance struggles: Moore About Business

Homeowners and business owners continue to struggle after Hurricane Ian, especially amid worries during a fresh hurricane season. I spoke with John Gardner, owner of Lee County Insurance, whose home business office and rental properties all sustained major damage from Hurricane Ian. I asked him how the storm initially impacted his home and business.

"The event was different for me than it had been for all the other hurricanes," said Gardner. "Normally, I go out and help other agents all over the country. This time, it got me good - flooded out my house, flooded out my entire office building rental properties. Yeah, it was pretty devastating."

"We're making progress in the office. We were able to get back into one of the units in the building, so we're functional. Not exactly comfortable, but we're we're here," he said of his progress a year later.

As a local insurance agent and agency owner, Gardner openly shared his views on the response of the insurance system after the devastating storm.

"They were...not great. Some were certainly better than others."

"What is unusual in Florida is what are called catastrophe situations," he went on to describe how the insurance industry handles catastrophes. "A hurricane is always a catastrophe. Basically, it's anytime there's more than a few people affected. The Florida companies don't have enough adjusters on staff to handle catastrophes so they always contract with what are called third party administrators. There are organizations or companies throughout the country that that's all they do is handle catastrophe claims. The third party company immediately calls in 100 adjusters, 500 adjusters. 1000 adjusters from all over the country. Those adjusters have no clue what the Florida building codes are. They have no clue what the policy language is. They are there to come investigate, take pictures and document. There's nothing that says it has to be accurate."

"So yeah, it all depends on who your adjuster was. Some companies did a pretty good job. The difficulty that I have is some companies are totally hands off. It's up to that third party administrator to handle the claim, and that's where things went sideways with a lot of people."

He also recommended that people keep their insurance policies in full force.

"Insurance is expensive and it's not getting cheaper. The things you can do to protect yourself: don't let your policy lapse, maintain your home. The reality is insurance companies really don't want to insure people today. They don't want to take on new clients because they don't know what those exposures are. And if you let your policy lapse, you are a bigger risk. Agents can't get exceptions right now company. So be insurable."

"But as far as rates coming down, the industry wants to tell you we're looking at 12 to 18 months. I'm telling you, they'll stabilize then, but I don't see them coming down notably anytime soon."

Karen Moore is publisher of Southwest Florida Business Today.

Publisher of SWFL Business Today