TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s been two months since Florida’s special session to address the state’s property insurance crisis, when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation aimed at stabilizing the market. But homeowners remain in limbo and the two top Democrats who want to replace the governor say more needs to be done.
Florida narrowly avoided a new property insurance disaster on Monday when a ratings agency delayed the downgrade of more than 20 companies. Although Demotech backed away from the immediate downgrade of more than 20 insurers this week, the downgrades – which experts say would cause financial chaos – are still possible.
The close call sparked one candidate to hold a news conference late Tuesday.
“Ron DeSantis is the single worst governor,” Rep. Charlie Crist said during his news conference.
Crist, a Democrat representing part of Tampa Bay in the U.S. House and former Republican who served as Florida’s governor in 2007, is running for the job again. He stopped in Tampa on Tuesday to address the ongoing property insurance crisis – as homeowners are seeing premiums double and insurance companies are failing or limiting business.
8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi asked Crist how soon he believes his proposed plan to fix the crisis would bring homeowners relief.
“Oh, quick – you know, I’ve had experience in this area,” he said.
Crist pointed to his record in addressing the troubled market years ago.
“We did it within a week, that session, and we were able to drop rates 10 percent,” Crist said. “If you have insurance companies that don’t want to serve the people, tell them to get out of here.”
Crist also said Florida’s Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier should be replaced. He added that if homeowners lose coverage, Citizens Property Insurance – the state-backed insurer that’s a last resort, should be forced to give them a policy at the same rate for 12 months.
Citizens is projected to hit 1.2 million policies by the end of the year. Crist said the company can afford to take on more policies because they’ve done it before.
“Charlie’s attacks are ironic coming from the man who single-handedly booted property insurance companies out of Florida with his anti-free market policy experiment in 2007,” a campaign spokesperson for Gov. DeSantis said. “Governor DeSantis is taking on the tough fight to help Florida homeowners and working to clean up the mess Charlie’s policies created.”
Meanwhile, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the other Democrat vying to replace DeSantis, referenced the property insurance crisis last week in a debate with Crist. It was the only between the two candidates before the Democratic primary in August.
“On day one, I’m declaring a housing emergency because that’s exactly what it is,” Fried said during the debate.
Fried said she would appoint a task force to come up with innovative ideas to lower rates and recruit new providers. She added that she would also increase the authority of the State’s Insurance Advocate.
At a news conference in Clearwater in May, Gov. DeSantis vowed changes were coming in that month’s special legislative session.
“We have underlying problems with this system and you need to address it. And so, we’re going head on,” said DeSantis.
Soon after, DeSantis signed reforms into law. Homeowners can now access state dollars to stormproof homes. They won’t automatically be denied coverage for having an older roof. And attorneys fees in frivolous lawsuits have been limited.
Industry experts said reforms, under DeSantis, will lower rates in 12 to 18 months. Citizens CEO Barry Gilway said they are seeing fewer frivolous lawsuits.
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