By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hurricane Andrew devastated insurance companies in the state of Florida.

National insurance companies pulled out, while smaller companies failed.

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All these years later, Florida home insurance companies are again facing tough times, still recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Michael. Massive losses, inflated damage claims and lengthy lawsuits the cause.

It’s resulting in rate increase and policy cancellations.

“What we are seeing is those companies that have most of their risk in Florida are the ones we are seeing having the most difficulty,” said Michael Peltier with Citizens Property Insurance.

Permission to cancel policies granted to Gulfstream Property and Casualty from Sarasota: 20,000 plus. Universal Insurance Company of North America, also in Sarasota, over 13,000. Southern Fidelity Insurance Company, which is in Tallahassee, nearly 20,000.

“You can raise rates or you can try and reduce your exposure,” said Peltier. “This is all a process by private carriers to shore up their businesses so they can protect consumers that remain covered by them.”

And how about those rate increases? FIU professors serve as the lead agency for the Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model. Updated yearly, it is the benchmark for regulators and insurance companies when it comes to setting rates.

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“The Florida Hurricane Model basically estimates hurricane risks, estimates the losses insurance companies are going to incur for the exposure of the portfolio of the policies they have,” said Professor Shahid Hamid.

It helps set those premiums, but it is not necessarily the potential hurricane damage that is totally responsible for rate hikes. Yes, Irma and Michael did a lot of damage, but what else is driving rate increases?

“I don’t think private carriers expected the level of litigation that was coming out of those storms, that took everyone by surprise. I think there have been issues of claim handling, water claims especially, all came together, I hate to use the phrase, a perfect storm,” said Peltier.

“I think the big raise in premiums is not just hurricanes. I think you have assignment of benefit problems, other problems plaguing the industry,” said Hamid.

So what to do if you get that dreaded cancellation notice? Citizens Insurance is known as “the company of last resort.”

“The suggestion we give everyone: contact your agent, your insurance agent, they are the ones that can work up a policy through us,” said Peltier. “Unlike commercial for Progressive or Geico, Citizen does not sell directly to the policyholder.”

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Estimates are that more than 50,000 Florida policies won’t be renewed.