As a long-time Destin vacation rental owner, Christine Karpinski says owners who rent their properties for less than 7 days at a time may be uninsurable through Citizens Property Insurance.
"If you have nightly rates at all, Citizens can deny you insurance," she said. "The bottom line is that homeowners need to be aware of this. It's prudent that insurance agents notify people of this, but it seems like they are not."
Citizens Insurance is the government-established not-for-profit insurer in Florida and Louisiana that's commonly known as the "insurer of last resort" for policy holders that are unable to obtain coverage elsewhere. Citizens has a total of 2,417 policies in place in Okaloosa County.
For Karpinski, if vacation rental owners are unable to insure their properties, it could have devastating effects on the local economy and real estate community, especially if a damaging storm were to impact the area. Karpinski, who is the author of "How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner," told The Log she found out about the policy changes while working through personal insurance documents.
"My first reaction was skepticism," she said. "Once I started researching this, I was able to confirm it through other agents."
"It was a little disconcerting to find out that I'm paying for insurance, but if I were to have a loss it wouldn't be covered," Karpinski said. "From my perspective, as a property owner down here, the last thing we want is for something to negatively impact the entire community."
Say a storm were to impact the area, Karpinski said there would be a large portion of the area’s property owners that would be unable to make claims against their policies if it was determined that they rented their property on a nightly basis during the course of the year.
"Think about the impact to the entire real estate market," she said. "It could have a devastating trickle-down effect on everybody."
As someone who works in the industry, Kim Shahid, of Santa Rosa Beach's Coastal Insurance Agency, told The Log that there are plenty of homeowners who are unaware of the changes to Citizens' policies.
"It's very important for people to have the right policy and the right coverage so they can get paid if something does happen," she said. "You have to know what the usage of your property is going to be, and you have to rent for more than seven days."
"Once we explain this to them, the ball is in their court," she added. "We just have to provide the best knowledge and solutions we can."
Lori Poole, a representative from Citizens, confirmed to The Log that Citizens currently does not insure residential vacation rentals that are rented for periods of less than 7 days.
"Our board of governors recently approved a proposal that will allow Citizens to write wind-only coverage for short-term vacation rentals in the wind bourne debris region," she wrote in an email. "We are working towards implementing this change and anticipate that Citizens wind-only coverage will soon be available for these properties."
For Karpinski, awareness of the changes is key. To learn more, visit her website at www.howtorentbyowner.com.
"I think it’s critically important for people to know about this," she said.