Homeowners fear that if they get damaged, they will have to bear most of the cost of replacing their roofs. They should be able to relax for at least another year – unless they need to find a new insurer.
Florida House and the Senate have taken different directions on legislation aimed at stabilizing the skyrocketing cost of home insurance.
A home bill sponsor removed a proposal to exempt insurers from paying the full cost of replacing roofs damaged by storms, fire, fallen trees, or other disasters. A Senate version of the proposal will likely be forwarded to the entire Senate.
Chances are the proposal will survive any compromise bill the entire House and Senate approves, said Paul Handerhan, president of the Federal Association for Insurance Reform, a consumer-focused surveillance group based in Fort Lauderdale.
“If the House doesn’t change its mind, the Senate bill won’t become law,” Handerhan said. “My gut feeling is if it was in the house version it would probably be there already.”
The proposal would allow insurers to reduce roof coverage when their customers’ policies are renewed. Instead of guaranteeing full replacement coverage, depending on the type of roof, insurers could only pay part of the cost of replacing roofs that are more than 10 years old.
This would hold customers responsible for the rest of the cost, which in most cases would cost thousands of dollars. Policyholders would have to pay 30% to replace a metal roof. 60% as a replacement for concrete tiles, clay tiles, wood shakes or wood shingle roofs; and 75% to replace the usual asphalt shingle roof or another type of roof.
An average roof replacement costs $ 8,228, according to Homeadvisor.com. However, upgraded materials like concrete tile can cost up to $ 45,000.
The proposal stipulates that insurers only have to pay for the complete replacement of roofs over 10 years if the house represents a total loss.
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While the repeal of the proposal would be welcomed by contractors, plaintiffs’ attorneys, and lawyers for low-income residents, Handerhan said allowing limits would make some insurers more willing to cover older homes they currently consider too risky.
High claims and litigation rates have forced many insurers to stop offering insurance for homes in Florida with roofs over 10 years, leaving homeowners no choice but to Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state’s “insurer of last resort.” Subjecting customers to costly surcharges if not all claims can be met after a catastrophic storm season.
Private market insurers are likely to continue to refuse to insure homes with roofs for over 10 years unless lawmakers enforce roof replacement coverage reductions, Handerhan said.
“Insurance companies would be willing to write insurance coverage if they didn’t pay the full cost of roof replacement,” he said. “If a homeowner chooses between something and nothing, they will likely choose something.”
Costs through the roof, say insurers
Insurers say they need to cut millions in payouts caused by roofers who aggressively advertise neighborhoods and incentivize homeowners to allow them to inspect their roofs for damage. With government building codes mandating a complete roof replacement with more than 25% damage, contractors have little trouble finding that much damage so they can bill insurers for the cost of a new roof.
If insurers don’t pay for the new roofs, roofers will sue insurers, which further increases the costs that need to be shared among all homeowners in the form of interest rate hikes averaging 20% to 40% this year and none the next they could be reforms so high, say insurers.
“The reason your prices are rising is to give your neighbors free roofs,” said Locke Burt, president and CEO of Security First Insurance Co. “But they are not free.” You pay for it. “
However, roofers and their attorneys say they are wrongly accused by insurers who want to avoid responsibility for paying legitimate claims. Insurers bring lawsuits, they say, when they deny claims or underpay, forcing consumers and contractors to fight them in court.
However, a Sun Sentinel review of lawsuits against insurers in South Florida last year by roofers found a list of roofing companies that each filed hundreds of lawsuits against insurers between 2018 and 2020, including one with 1,054 lawsuits, two of which were greater than 900 each Lawsuits filed suits and two others, each with more than 500 suits.
“Dramatic Effect” on Low Income Homeowners
During a March 17 subcommittee hearing of the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, Naples Republican Bob Rommel announced that after meeting “stakeholders” he had decided to remove the controversial proposal from an insurance reform bill he sponsored. Rommel has not identified the stakeholders, but contractor and plaintiff lawyers have come out strongly opposed to the measure in legislative committee hearings so far this year. Rommel did not respond to requests to discuss his reasons for removing the proposal from his bill.
House and Senate Democrats have also spoken out against the proposed roof removal, saying that low-income residents in their districts would be devastated by the sudden demand to raise thousands of dollars for a new roof.
Senator Audrey Gibson, who represents part of Duval County, stated in a March 18 hearing for the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee that millions of Florida homeowners have roofs that are more than 10 years old. The change would have a “dramatic effect” on older homeowners with roofs that are “hanging by a thread” that they cannot afford to replace, she said.
Senator Gary Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, predicted homeowners would not know about the change if it went into effect until they filed a roof damages lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously voted on March 2 on a resolution calling on lawmakers not to pass the roof replacement reform and instructing county lobbyists to oppose it. The proposal could, according to the resolution, “have disenfranchised homeowners who have paid their premiums for years by allowing insurance companies to pay a fraction of the cost of replacing the roof, significantly reducing coverage for many homeowners across the state . ”
However, those arguments have so far failed to sway the Senate Republicans, who brought the proposal up from two committee hearings and appeared ready to do the same in one rules committee hearing before the March 18 time run out is.
Supporters said that in order to keep Florida home insurance affordable, homeowners must recognize the need to replace their roofs when they reach the end of their life cycle and save money for that inevitable day.
Insurers could continue to offer full replacement roof coverage as an optional add-on when the proposal goes into effect, said Senator Jim Boyd, a Republican from the Tampa area and a co-sponsor of the Senate law.
Burt compared the proposal to auto insurance. “If you crash a 2016 Honda, you don’t get a brand new Honda. You get what a 2016 Honda is worth, ”he said.