TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — After several hours of debate, the Florida House passed a legislative package on Wednesday that addresses property insurance and condominium reforms.
The Florida Senate had passed the legislation on Tuesday. The bills will now head to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The bills are aimed at stabilizing the state’s troubled market. The proposals included in the package would ban insurance companies from automatically refusing coverage to homeowners with older roofs. A $2 billion reinsurance fund will be created to help insurance companies obtain coverage.
It also provides state dollars to stormproof homes and limits attorneys fees in lawsuits.
State Rep. Jay Trumbull, the sponsor of the property insurance reform legislation, said in a statement, “The legislation passed this week builds on our focus to increase consumer choice, affordability, address fraud and costly litigation, and hold insurers accountable.”
But does this fix, really fix anything? Will the system work better? Will homeowners pay less? And will the cheaters that are driving up prices pay?
The general consensus from both parties is that the two bills are a step in the right direction.
They make it easier for homeowners to keep coverage.
Insurance companies can’t automatically cancel because of an old roof. That’s important since hurricane season is days away.
But lawmakers put no cap on rate hikes. It’s possible premiums could double next year.
Those on both sides of the aisle said most homeowners should not expect rates to go down anytime soon.
State Rep. Andrew Learned, a Democrat representing Hillsborough County, said in the coming weeks expect insurance companies to fail, policies to be dropped and rates to go up.
“Was it worth it?” asked 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi referring to the special session.
“No, no… We did not do enough to address this crisis,” said Rep. Learned. “In a couple of weeks more insurance companies are going to fail when the reinsurance rates kick in because this bill did not do enough to get at the root of the problem. More Floridians are going to get dropped and therefore, more people are going to see their rates going up.”
Many lawmakers contend Florida is a factor of litigation for roof claims.
Rep. Learned said 25 attorneys file one out of three property insurance lawsuits in the state.
“25 attorneys are responsible for over a billion dollars in claims,” he said.
The bills don’t directly stop alleged bad actors, according to Rep. Learned.
Ron Haynes is a member of the Florida Justice Association, a non-profit organization of plaintiff’s attorneys.
“It seems like some attorneys are manufacturing claims, is that true or not?” asked 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi.
“I don’t believe that’s true, there are some accusations about roofs that potentially could be manufactured claims,” said Haynes.
In the past, Haynes said he’s had unscrupulous roofers approach his home.
“I said no, it’s insurance fraud, I had no storm go through my neighborhood, I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t want you on my property,” he said.
“You agree that these band of roofers exist” asked Saeidi.
“Absolutely,” said Haynes.
“How big of a problem are they?” Saeidi asked.
“I think they were a problem but the legislation was very successful last year in addressing that.”
Florida’s Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said the majority of property insurance lawsuits in the country happen in Florida.
Hayes and his organization FJA said they don’t buy it.
“We were questioning how they actually got the data and of course they won’t reveal that to us,” he said “And so we believe those numbers are skewed.”
The two bills will require insurance companies to be more transparent and submit more data and for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation to track it.