Jim Boyd’s home insurance overhaul, minus roof, goes to Senate, returns to House
The legislature has, since the publication of this article, approved the package and it will go to the governor. The updated coverage has moved here.
The Senate has completed negotiations and approved a Florida home insurance overhaul.
Sen. Jim boyd filed what will likely be the last major changes to a home insurance bill this year. After removing the ability of insurers to use judgment offers in regulation, the bill passed upper house 35-5.
But while this is a higher number of votes than previous versions of the bill received, it appears that the effectiveness of the legislation in reducing premiums for homeowners is of more concern.
Sen. Jeffrey Brandes, who helped draft the bill, criticized the adjustments demanded by negotiations in the House. “It’s far from enough what we need to do,” he said.
Meanwhile, the senator Gary Farmer, a Broward Democrat, argued that the bill serves only as a giveaway to insurance companies that are already raking in profits. “It’s a fabricated crisis,” he said.
Boyd, for his part, said those terse words could indicate this was the most ambitious reform the Senate could achieve before the end of the session.
“Sen. Farmer and Senator Brandes both don’t like him, ”he said. “There must be something right about it.”
The Senate passed the change on Fridays and has now put the passage in the hands of the House.
the amendmentto legislation (SB 76), tabled on the last day of the session, addresses several controversies surrounding the bill.
If the amendment passes, the bylaws on roofing policies would remain unchanged. The amendment puts in place certain non-solicitation prohibitions that are not included when the bill erased the House earlier this week.
Industry representatives say this is an important issue to be addressed. Many roofers are knocking on doors in communities and encouraging consumers to get new roofs, promising they can get insurance to cover the costs, creating a significant cost for insurers.
But lobbyists are withholding their comments for further study of the 41-page amendment. When the law was originally passed by the Senate, it allowed carriers to sell policies covering the depreciated value of roofs over 10 years old, and the House allowed payments on the actual cash value.
The amendment would also recompose the language relating to legal fees.
“In a lawsuit arising from a home or business insurance policy not brought by an assignee, the amount of reasonable attorneys’ fees will only be awarded to an insured as provided for” in the law in force, indicates the wording of amendment.
Limits on attorney fees have met significant resistance from Democrats and consumer lawyers who file claims in court. Boyd and Rep. Bob rommel, a Republican from Naples who brought the issue to the House, said Florida must grapple with huge legal costs in a state that leads the country in insurance lawsuits. But critics of the legislation say insurance companies denying claims and fighting their own customers in court are part of the reasons the costs are so high.
Another controversial element of the proposed reforms is the reduction of the deadline for filing complaints from three to two years. Boyd’s Amendment allows another year for filing additional claims.
Boyd is confident that the bill, if enacted, will respond to rising premiums and the challenges carriers are facing losses in today’s insurance environment.
“This will provide much-needed relief to homeowners who have seen their insurance costs continue to rise in recent years,” he said.
Many policyholders this year have seen premium renewal rates rise by 25% or more. Boyd, a training insurance agent, said his own rates had jumped about 40% this year.
The Senate version adopted changes in the tariff structure of citizens’ property insurance. The public insurer of last resort currently has annual increases capped at 10%. The private insurance market, meanwhile, has rates that climb between 25% and 40% each year. Rommel’s bill gradually increases the extent to which insurance can increase rates until the public insurer can increase them by up to 15% by 2026.
Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Democrat from Miami, said it actually defeats the bill’s stated purpose.
“This increase in citizens’ insurance is an increase in rates for our voters and I cannot in good conscience vote on it,” she said previously.
Sen. Janet Cruz, a Democrat in Tampa, proposed a floor amendment that would have the opposite effect saying citizens could not change rates next year unless it lowers them. “If you put a goal in a bill, let’s live up to it,” said Cruz. “Let the owners realize the savings.”
But the amendment was rejected. Sen. Jeffrey Brandes, a Republican from Pinellas who worked closely with Boyd on the Senate bill, said it was important that citizens remain financially viable and that his tariffs do not negatively impact the market for some time.