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Insurance tips for storm battered Florida

Floridians are bracing for more bad weather. Here's how homeowners in the state can find adequate and affordable insurance.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN

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NEW YORK ( -- As Tropical Storm Fay churns through Florida, residents there are boarding up and battening down their homes. Here's a look at Florida's homeowner insurance situation.

1. Get the picture

Florida has a program called Citizens Property Insurance, which is a last stop for folks who can't get private coverage.

The state is currently trying to wean people off that program because taxpayers are on the hook for the losses. But big insurance companies aren't interested in extending coverage in Florida.

State Farm, Allstate and Nationwide, for example, aren't renewing some policies in high-risk areas.

This has played out over the last couple of years, setting the stage for real problems if there is a devastating storm or series of storms.

Allstate is also being forced by regulators to write more policies after turning down thousands of homeowners - but it's a slightly different issue.

Strapped homeowners are turning to new small insurance upstarts for coverage as state officials try to downsize the citizens' plan.

2. Compare rates

Florida recently unveiled a website that helps consumers compare insurance rates throughout the state.

That website is

You'll be able to view a sample of companies and rates for insuring a typical Florida home.

The list of insurers is sorted from the lowest to highest cost and provides a link to the company's contact information.

Make sure you feel comfortable with the representative.

Keep in mind that there are advantages of using an insurance agent who is not part of the big insurance giants.

Just think, there are less people who are trying to get coverage. This way, if there is a disaster, you're not waiting for months to get a contractor.

To make sure a smaller player is legitimate, you can check their rating at AM Best. That website is

You can look at their complaint ratio. You can also check their financial strength. Companies are rated on their ability to pay claims.

3. Remember flood insurance

Keep in mind that hurricane season doesn't end until November 30. And make sure you have flood insurance. It's not part of your homeowner's policy.

Even if you're not in Fay's path or you don't live near a body of water, you are still at risk of flooding.

Don't delay if you think you need coverage. There is a waiting period of 30 days until you're actually covered.

To gauge your risk of a flood, go to

Most policies cost $600, but if you live in an area with less risk of flood, you could be paying a lot less. To top of page

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