by Bethany Blankley
Within days of the special legislative session starting this week, both chambers passed bills to reform property insurance and to increase condominium safety.
Lawmakers passed two bills, Senate Bill 2D, Property Insurance, and Senate Bill 4D, Building Safety. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed them both Thursday.
Both bills were sponsored by state Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, who chairs the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance.
The property insurance reform bill seeks to stabilize Florida’s property insurance market by including pro-consumer measures that expand choice, increase transparency, and are expected to reduce rates over time. It also includes significant anti-fraud and legal reforms to reduce frivolous litigation that’s helped drive up costs for insurance companies and policyholders.
The bill balances “fair costs and protections for consumers while adding reasonable guardrails for insurance companies to help address frivolous litigation and fraudulent claims that drive up rates for everyone,” Boyd said in a statement. “One of the most important parts of this legislation is the update to roofing policies, which ensures there is a clear understanding between homeowners and insurance companies about roof repair and replacement coverage and costs.
“We are protecting homeowners from being canceled when a roof is less than 15 years old, or when an inspection shows an older roof still has plenty of useable life left, and updating the building code to protect against unnecessary and costly roof replacements that, when part of an insurance claim, impact everyone’s premiums,” he added.
“Across the state, Floridians are feeling the burden of skyrocketing property insurance premiums,” Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said. “To provide relief as quickly as possible,” the bill “enhances insurer access to reinsurance, and insurers who participate in the program in 2022 are required to pass the savings onto consumers in a rate filing by June 30.”
“Additionally, the bill provides 2-to-1 matching grants that will help homeowners harden their homes against storm damage,” he added, which makes homes safer, reduces premiums and claims.
Its wide range of reforms include regulating roof repair and replacement and roof deductibles, and expanding more consumer choice for roof repairs. It also prohibits insurers from refusing to write policies on homes with roofs less than 15 years old.
It limits how much attorneys can receive from property insurance litigation and implements measures to reduce frivolous litigation. “To curb unscrupulous roof claims, the bill enhances reforms passed in SB 76 (2021), prohibiting written contractors’ solicitations that encourage consumers to make a property insurance claim for roof damage unless the solicitation provides certain notices,” according to a Senate summary.
It creates matching grants for home hardening to keep homes safe and reduce insurance claims, increases insurer access to reinsurance with savings passed on to consumers, and increases insurer transparency.
The bill expands the My Safe Florida Home Program to include hurricane mitigation inspections and matching grants for retrofitting of homesteaded single-family homes with a value of $500,000 or less. Applicants may receive up to $10,000 in program funds.
The bill authorizes $2 billion for a new Reinsurance to Assist Policyholders (RAP) program for insurers, authorizing them to be reimbursed for hurricane losses below the insurer’s Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund retention. Insurers that participate in RAP must reduce their policyholder’s rates by June 30, 2022. Insurers that defer using RAP until 2023 must reduce policyholder rates by May 1, 2023.
It also directs the Office of Insurance Regulation to make publicly available property insurance company data, including the number of policies, premium amounts, number of cancellations, among other data. It also requires an analysis to determine why a property insurance company fails within four months of the Department of Financial Services being appointed as a receiver in liquidation proceedings.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, who introduced the House version of the bill, said it “is a great first step to reduce premiums for policyholders and continue to provide Floridians some relief.”
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