Will diluted property insurance reform achieve the desired result?

With Florida leading the nation in rates and lawsuits and private carriers bleeding policies to citizens, property insurance is back on an unsustainable path. Consumers are caught in the middle of the political battle, coming home with bills that only get more prohibitive.

Is there any relief for homeowners in sight? I’m not sure because of the change of the house to SB 76 Accepted Wednesday.

We covered in detail at this session the plight of Florida homeowners suffering double-digit rate increases on their home insurance premiums. On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal shed light on and wrote over the topic nationwide the threat rising property insurance rates have made Florida’s hot real estate market.

Proponents of property insurance reform convincingly argue that lawsuit abuse is widespread and that legal fees are spiraling out of control. Florida Politics ran news that was picked up across the state that 76% of all property insurance claims in America perform here in the Sunshine State. We showed you that Florida is well on its way to bringing 100,000 property insurance lawsuits this year, with some attorneys having filed over 1,000 each as of March 31st.

Senators passed bipartisan legislation to reduce frivolous lawsuits and limit the one-way legal fees and fee multipliers that drive prices up. SB 76 also tackled the growing problem of seedy roofers pushing homeowners for vacant roofs with an ACV replacement plan.

The House of Representatives change to SB 76 dilutes some of the major consumer protection measures passed by the Senate, which means homeowners will have to pay the bill for continued abuse of litigation.

The House language doesn’t completely close the lid on attorneys’ fees – it leaves Florida as the only state in the nation to provide attorneys with regular contingency fee multipliers rather than on rare and exceptional occasions.

The house is also silent about tightening roofing and it appears that roofers’ planners are already talking openly about how to bypass the house language, which is meant to stop free roof advertising.

How Richie Kidwell, the president of the Restoration Association of Florida, said recently on Roofer’s Den podcast, Roofers should get rid of the leaflets promising free roofs with no excess and homeowners should promise to withhold the excess until the roof is replaced. Or, as he colorfully put it, building contractors can use the house language to “[say] the same shit, ”just in other words.

Unless SB 76 is passed closer to the way it left the Senate with bipartisan support, this problem is not going to go away completely. Property insurance reform is one of the sleepy topics of this session. Unless major reforms are passed by Friday, there is no end in sight to the multi-billion dollar interest rate hikes that are punishing consumers.

Floridians deserve better than being hit at ever higher rates to insure their homes. Legislators still have three days to act and score a victory for consumers.

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