Florida Lawmakers Pass Property Insurance Revamp – CBS Miami

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami / NSF) – Florida lawmakers on Friday addressed issues in the property insurance market and passed a plan that resulted in major rate increases for customers of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Could lead and take measures to curb roof damage claims and action lawsuits.

However, the plan wasn’t as far-reaching as a Senate proposal that would effectively have cost many homeowners more costs if they suffered roof damage.

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Senate Banking and Insurance Chairman Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said everyone should “give a little” as they negotiate the bill (SB 76).

But he said it would strengthen an insurance market where sweeping rate hikes and policies are pouring into citizens property insurance.

“I think it will help the market rebuild itself,” said Boyd, the bill sponsor.

However, the bill has been criticized by some lawmakers who said it went too far – and others who said it didn’t go far enough. Senator Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, complained about the prospect of increased interest rate hikes for Citizen customers.

“There’s no sugar coating,” said Taddeo. “It will literally raise prices.”

But Senator Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg said the bill won’t fix financial problems in the insurance market.

“We are on an unsustainable path,” said Brandes. “That bill is 40 percent of what it had to be.”

The Senate voted 35-5 to approve the bill, and the House followed with 75-41. The bill now goes to Governor Ron DeSantis.

The bill was passed against the backdrop of regulators who signed dozen of interest rate hikes of over 10 percent last year.

As the insurance market tightened, citizens took out more than 120,000 policies in the past year.

The insurance industry points to issues such as litigation costs and questionable, if not fraudulent, roof damage claims.

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Officials also argue that citizens established as insurers of last resort often charge lower premiums than private insurers.

Legislators like Brandes argue that citizen growth poses a major financial risk to the state. However, the problem of increasing citizen quotas is politically difficult as homeowners in some areas have few or no other options for coverage.

The bill would make a number of changes. They include:

– Enabling larger annual rate increases for citizens’ customers. Such increases are currently capped at 10 percent, but that limit would be gradually increased to 15 percent.

– Prevent contractors from soliciting homeowners to make insurance claims, including incentives for homeowners. This part of the bill is intended to curb roof damage claims. It is also designed to prevent public insurance adjusters from offering incentives to check for roof damage.

– Take steps to try to limit attorney fees who represent homeowners in lawsuits against insurers. This involves using a formula that looks at how much money is being awarded in court judgments and how much money has been offered by insurers to settle claims before the lawsuits.

– Reduction of the deadline for filing claims from three to two years, with an additional year for supplementary claims.

The Senate first tried to make more far-reaching changes in legal fees and claims for roof damage. It has been suggested, in part, that a “reimbursement plan” should be drawn up which would have enabled insurers to sell policies that provide reduced payments for roof repairs or replacements over 10 years. For example, insurers could have reimbursed 70 percent of the cost of metal roofs over 10 years and 40 percent of the cost of concrete and clay tile roofs.

The change would have meant that many homeowners would have had more costs if they had roof damage. But the house contradicted the idea, which wasn’t included in the final bill.

Senator Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, like Brandes, said he was concerned that lawmakers continue to “kick the ball down the street without making major changes.”

But Senator Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, compared the insurance industry to “Chicken Little” and denied arguments about major financial problems among insurers.

“It’s a manufactured crisis – a fully manufactured crisis,” Farmer said.

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