Florida lawmakers weigh property insurance changes

Roofing contractor executing repairs. Photo courtesy AYJW

As Florida lawmakers move into the final weeks of the 2021 legislative session, the issue of rising homeowners’ insurance costs has continued to stall in the Senate.

Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 76. It focuses on reducing the recurrence and costs of property insurance. If it should be approved, insurance companies would be allowed to change how they cover older roofs.

During a committee rules meeting, questions like what will happen when the catastrophe occurs, what solutions will come forth, paying less for the insurance, and receiving less coverage were frequently brought up.

State Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, voiced his concerns with SB 76.

“I believe this bill goes too far when we look into solutions. If we’re dealing with cost drivers, this is the problem. We are doing what the industry wants us to do with ‘solving this problem.’ Shouldn’t the consumers get a guaranteed premium reduction with the fix?” Farmer said. “That’s not in this bill either. I cannot support this bill and I urge my colleagues to think about your home, street, neighborhood, and the blue tarps everywhere when a hurricane comes. Also, think about how people can’t get lawyers because we’ve made it too hard for lawyers to take the risk of doing the case.”

Sen. Gibson, D-Jacksonville, believes SB 76 would need to clarify many things and is worried about people who would be affected.

“The people who are subject to the damage are the people who will likely end up on the short end of the stick,” Gibson said.

Factors like Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Michael in 2018 are responsible for an increase in rates in Florida, and SB 76 provides an extensive curve in reforms of property insurance claims in Florida.

Kyle Footman, a Tallahassee Realtor who is also a senior public relations student at FAMU, and realtor, has experience with roofing issues and the insurance market.

“Insurance is one of the biggest scams. You pay for insurance to reduce liability for emergencies such as roof damage. After the damage, you file a claim, then you have to pay a deductible, and it’s very likely after that claim, your insurance will go up, which is ridiculous. As a Realtor, I’ve seen many roofing issues that profoundly affected the transaction. There are a lot of things that need to change in the insurance industry,” Footman said.

According to Boyd, there is a crisis in the homeowners market and SB-76 could fix the issue.

“In the past three or four years, the domestic care in Florida has lost money. Some are financially in trouble right now. You can go to the Office of Insurance Commissioners website to see more information for yourself,” Boyd said. “The approach of the bill would take care of the homeowner, give the homeowner opportunity for representation by an attorney if needed, and give homeowners options to what they think is best for their families and their most valuable assets in their home.”

SB 76 is receiving support from insurers who noticed that the bill would require policy holders to provide notice to insurers no less than 60 days before filing lawsuits and reduce the number of years that policy holders would have to file claims after damages have occurred.

A corresponding House bill, HB 305, is highly different from SB-76. HB 305 focuses on attorney fees and what would allow insurers to limit reimbursements for repairing and replacing roofs.

SB 76 has passed through both the Banking and Insurance and Judiciary committees and still has to pass through the Rules Committee before being taken to the Senate floor for a vote.