TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s tough to be a homeowner in Florida. The problems with Florida’s property insurance industry are costing everyone.
Florida passed insurer-friendly laws during two special sessions last year. Now, a new approach is being considered in Tallahassee.
Despite sweeping insurance reforms, families are still getting hit with major premium spikes. Some tell 8 On Your Side they’re losing coverage altogether for roof solar panels installed they years ago.
And in the wake of Hurricane Ian, two state investigations were launched after three insurance adjusters testified their damage estimates had been changed to reduce payouts to storm victims.
The allegations were made during to the Florida House Commerce Committee on Dec. 13.
“They’ve got to stop changing our estimates,” said Mark Vinson, a Florida Licensed Insurance Adjuster.
State Sen. Travis Hutson, a Republican from St. Augustine, said last year’s reforms were good, but now it’s time to try something new.
“We were only punishing the lawyers’ side of things not the insurance side,” said Sen. Hutson. “There’s insurance companies out there that are bad actors and we know that.”
Sen. Hutson is the sponsor of Senate Bill 7052, dubbed “Insurer Accountability.”
The bill passed the Florida Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance on Wednesday. It stops insurance companies from dropping storm victims until after repairs are complete, and the claim are closed. And, for bad acts during hurricanes, it increases fines on insurers a whooping 500%.
But 8 On Your Side wanted to talk about a top concern among Floridians: rate increases.
“So OIR plus, the insurance companies have to explain themselves if they want a rate increase, are you looking at what we’ve done in the last 6 to 12 months and are you considering that and if you’re not, then, you probably shouldn’t get your rate increase,” said Sen. Hutson.
After two special sessions last year, Florida’s insurance companies won big. They got protections from lawsuits and taxpayer money to bolster the industry.
Sen. Hutson says now, those changes must be taken into account before the state approves rate hikes.
Not everyone is on board.
Former State Sen. Jeff Brandes has been a leading voice for reforming the market.
“Nothing in this bill will lower rates, in fact, largely it will increase rates because of the cost of compliance, two, nothing in this bill will help gain capital in Florida to start new companies and to add market competition,” said Brandes. “Nothing in this bill fixes the reinsurance crisis which is what’s the most pressing issue facing Floridan insurers right now which is likely going to cause a few of them to fail before June 1.”
Insurance companies say the cost of their insurance—called reinsurance—is at a generational high.
Brandes, who has been termed out, says that’s the most pressing issue and it’s not being addressed.
If this bill passes, the insurance companies will have to submit their manuals to state regulators, so they’ll know exactly what’s in their policies and they’ll hold them to it.
The bill is still making its way through committees but it’s expected to become law later this year.
If you’d like to discuss your property insurance with Mahsa, send her an email to MSaeidi@WFLA.com