Fitch Ratings: Impact of Hurricances Could Cause CMBS Delinquencies to Rise in Florida

One week after Hurricane Frances tore through Florida, Fitch Ratings is closely monitoring any uptick in Florida CMBS delinquencies. Florida is the fourth-largest contributor of CMBS collateral in the nation.

"With the impact from last month’s [Hurricane] Charley expected to create a short-term uptick in delinquencies, the successor storm Frances — and possibly Ivan — are likely to extend the duration of the increased delinquencies," says Mary MacNeill, senior director at Fitch Ratings.

As of Monday afternoon, Hurricane Ivan — a powerful Category 5 storm — was heading towards western Cuba on a track is projected to pass over the Florida panhandle by Wednesday night or Thursday morning. While meteorologists believe that the storm might weaken before making landfall then, it could still be a Category 3 storm packing winds as high as 130 miles per hour.

Borrowers of commercial properties are required by law to carry insurance, including wind damage, which typically carries a 5% loss deductible, as well as property interruption insurance.

MacNeill says deductibles are generally applied to each occurrence, so that some borrowers could face added burdens since there have been a slew of storms over the past few weeks.

In the hotel sector, owner and operator Lodgian reports that five of its Florida properties sustained damage from the storm. The damage ranges from minor to significant, according to Lodgian president and CEO W. Thomas Parrington.

"We, along with many other hotel companies, were affected by the one-two punch of Hurricanes Charley and Frances," says Parrington. "Fortunately, no staff or guests were injured during the course of these storms. With a third major storm, Hurricane Ivan, now headed toward the Florida coast, it is difficult to accurately gauge the effect of these storms on revenues and earnings during the third quarter. We intend to provide an update after we determine the effect, if any, of Hurricane Ivan."

Three hotels only suffered minor damage and are now open, among them the Holiday Inn Express Pensacola, the Holiday Inn Pensacola and the Holiday Inn Winter Haven. The Crowne Plaza West Palm Beach and Holiday Inn Melbourne experienced greater damage, including extensive water penetration.

The 219-room Crowne Plaza West Palm Beach remains partially open and is expected to fully re-open by the end of September. The 295-room Holiday Inn Melbourne has been closed since Sept. 1, when a mandatory emergency evacuation order was issued for the area.

Meanwhile, apartment REIT Apartment Investment and Management Co. (AIMCO) predicts that damages from Hurricane Frances will total between $4.6 and $5.2 million in casualty expenses. AIMCO lowered its third-quarter funds from operations (FFO) target below Wall Street levels last Friday.

Based on a preliminary assessment, AIMCO reports that Hurricane Frances affected 70 of its apartment properties in Florida and one in North Carolina. The cost to repair 53 of the 71 impacted apartments was less than the deductible for third-party insurance coverage.

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