May 21, 2022
  • May 21, 2022

Florida House Advances Change In Property Insurance

By on April 23, 2021 0

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With one supporter saying the bill could help “stop the bleeding,” Florida House moved forward on Friday with a revised plan to make changes to the state’s property insurance system.

The plan (HB 305), approved by the House Trade Committee, remains very different from a property insurance bill passed this month by the Senate. Lawmakers are expected to reach agreement on a final version by the end of the legislative session scheduled for April 30.

Many lawmakers say they need to make changes because financial woes are driving insurance companies to ask for big rate hikes and ditch their policies. In a sign of the unrest, more than 120,000 policies have been paid to the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. over the past year.

The House and Senate seek to try to reduce insurance litigation, including placing restrictions on attorney fees, and limiting what industry officials claim to be questionable — if not fraudulent – – claims for damage to the roof.

But the bills take different action, while lawmakers also face arguments that insurers are being sued for not paying claims properly. During Friday’s trade committee meeting, several northwest Florida residents and lawyers described continuing problems getting claims paid after Hurricane Michael, which caused extensive damage in 2018.

“At the end of the day, consumers who have paid premiums for over 30 years… are not being treated properly,” said Representative Joe Geller, an Aventura Democrat who opposed the House bill. .

But bill sponsor Bob Rommel, R-Naples, pointed to the high litigation rates in Florida. He said bad insurance companies “should be sued, but not all insurance companies are bad.”

Rommel, who revised an earlier version of the bill ahead of Friday’s meeting, said the state needs to make changes to help attract more insurers to the state.

“Part of the problem here in Florida is that we need more competition,” Rommel said. “We need more carriers.

The 53-page bill, which was approved by the committee in a 14-7 vote, would make a series of changes. They understand:

— Prevent contractors from soliciting homeowners to file insurance claims, including offering homeowners incentives. This part of the bill seeks to reduce claims for roof damage. It also aims to prevent public adjusters from offering incentives to inspect roof damage.

— Allow larger annual rate increases for clients of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. These increases are currently capped at 10 percent, but this limit would be gradually increased to 15 percent.

— Take steps to try to limit the fees of lawyers who represent owners in lawsuits against insurers. This includes creating a formula that would examine how much money is awarded in court judgments and how much money has been offered by insurers to settle claims before lawsuits.

Amy Boggs, the plaintiffs attorney who represented the Florida Justice Association at Friday’s meeting, criticized the bill, saying it would create “whole new hoops and obstacles” for homeowners.

“We are so strongly opposed to this legislation because it will hurt homeowners,” Boggs said.

But Representative Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach, said the bill could help “stop the bleeding” in the insurance market.

“I think this will stabilize the market,” DiCeglie said.

The Senate bill (SB 76) also targets attorney fees and would go much further than the House in handling roof damage claims.

The Senate would create what is described as a “repayment schedule” that would allow insurers to sell policies that would offer reduced payments for repair or replacement of roofs over 10 years old. For example, insurers could reimburse 70 percent of the costs for metal roofs older than 10 years and 40 percent of the costs for concrete and terracotta tile roofs.

The change would actually move more costs for many homeowners when they have roof damage.