TAMPA (WFLA) – Hundreds of homeowners are turning to 8 On Your Side after seeing their property insurance rates soar. The homeowners are upset because it appears to them that Florida lawmakers are doing nothing about it.
No proposals passed during the 2022 legislative session and now, a special session to tackle the problem seems less likely.
Two entities can call for a special legislative session in Florida: Governor Ron DeSantis or leadership in the Florida House and Senate.
Speaking Monday in Wellington, Gov. Desantis said he ‘would welcome’ a special session on insurance reform and also new condo safety measures in the aftermath of the Surfside building collapse.
However, the governor seemed to leave it up to lawmakers to decide whether to return to Tallahassee and tackle the issues.
Robert Schnorf is a retiree in Pinellas County. He just found out his rate will jump from about $3,314 to $5,056. That’s nearly $1,800 more a year.
“I try to do things to minimize my monthly living expenses and things just happen out of the blue that I have no control over,” Schnorf said.
This weekend, other homeowners across Florida emailed 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi with a similar story: Their rate is dramatically increasing or their policy is being dropped.
On Friday, State Sen. Jeff Brandes said it’s time for Gov. DeSantis to call a special session for insurance reform.
On Monday, Gov. DeSantis signaled that he welcomes a special session but it doesn’t sound like he’s issuing a directive to force lawmakers back to work.
“I would welcome that, I think the legislature just didn’t come through with it. If they can get an agreement, they should do it. I’m confident we’re going to see something along those lines at some point.. within the next year,” Gov. DeSantis added. “I’ve got a pen ready. And so, if they do it, we’ll be very receptive to that.”
Leadership from the Florida Senate and House of Representatives could also issue a joint call for a special session.
Investigator Mahsa Saeidi reached out to the office of State Sen. Wilton Simpson and Speaker of the House, Rep. Chris Sprowls.
“I wanted to know if they were planning on doing that,” said Saeidi.
Representatives for Sen. Simpson and Rep. Sprowls had no additional comment but they did point to prior statements from the legislators.
Speaking to reporters on March 11, Sen. Simpson seemed open to a special session.
“There’s a possibility. We have many companies going out of business, it’s certainly a crisis,” said Sen. Simpson.
It’s a crisis that’s hitting families across the Tampa Bay area. Schnorf says the dramatic spike in price just isn’t fair.
“The last time I made a homeowner’s claim was in 1992,” he said.
He says his neighbors are also seeing their rates spike. Some, who don’t have a mortgage, are thinking about dropping their insurance altogether and self-insuring.
In 2021, lawmakers approved a series of changes to try to reduce the number of lawsuits in Florida, and that includes a formula to limit the fees of attorneys. But homeowners aren’t seeing an impact yet.
A spokesman for Gov. Ron DeSantis sent Saeidi the following message late Monday:
“Governor DeSantis remains committed to the goal of stabilizing insurance rates and continuing to work for the consumer. Governor DeSantis is monitoring the stability of the insurance market in real-time, and closely working with Commissioner Altmaier and insurers to gauge the health of the industry. Insurers are receiving their reinsurance quotes now for coverage for the upcoming hurricane season, and as those insurers receive those quotes, we will have a better understanding of the health of the market.
As I’m sure you are aware, in 2019, 8.6% of all property insurance claims in the U.S. were filed in Florida, yet 76.45% of all property insurance litigation in the U.S. occurred in Florida.
Recognizing this, during the 2021 legislative session, the Legislature passed, and Governor DeSantis signed Senate SB 76 which significantly reformed the litigation environment in Florida by changing the way attorney fees are awarded in disputed insurance cases. At the time, it was stated that it would take potentially two years to feel the impact of that bill, because pending litigation does not fall under the changed law nor do insurance claims for a loss that preceded the bill’s effective date. Many of the insurance companies in Florida are still saddled with the tailing litigation stemming from recent hurricanes, most notably Hurricane Irma. But as a result of the reforms we have implemented thus far, we are seeing some new companies coming into the market.
The Governor has consistently pressed the legislature to enact substantive insurance reform. In addition to pushing for the attorney fee reform in SB 76, in 2019, Governor DeSantis pushed for reform of assignment of benefit (AOB) claims and signed HB 7065 into law. He has also appointed over 100 judges and 5 Supreme Court justices who are having a meaningful impact to reduce frivolous litigation. Additionally, he has publicly stated he supported some of the measures the Senate was considering during the 2022 legislative session, but none of them passed.”
If your policy was dropped or your rates suddenly increased, please email Investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com