TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Homeowners are getting squeezed by double or even triple-digit homeowners insurance premium increases.
Lawmakers are expected to announce proposed legislation soon for the upcoming special session aimed at addressing the property insurance. But 8 On Your Side has learned there are powerful forces against major reform.
Despite the absolute dysfunction in the market right now, it’s possible that, come crunch time, lawmakers won’t agree on any major reforms or relief.
State Rep. Jackie Toledo, a Republican representing Tampa, says she will carefully consider proposed legislation for the special session, which starts Monday. In the past, insurance companies initially denied claims at two of her properties.
“I would say there are some frivolous claims out there but not all of them are frivolous. Mine certainly was not a frivolous claim but they denied my claim,” said Toledo.
Toledo, a member of the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, says what many Floridians might be thinking.
“I think the insurance companies are part of the problem,” said Toledo. “I think their model is to deny.”
Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Republican representing Pinellas County, was against a special session. 8 On Your Side asked him why last month, as we heard from homeowners desperate for relief.
“Last year, we passed one of the most significant insurance reform bills we’ve ever passed in the history of Florida,” Sprowls said. “It included amending attorney fee statutes that hadn’t been done in a hundred years.”
“We believe in reform,” he added. “That’s… why we had a significant reform last year.”
“But it was eviscerated by the courts,” Investigator Mahsa Saeidi said. Sprowls responded, “that’s not true at all.”
Ten months ago, that significant reform – Senate Bill 76 – went into effect. Immediately, the provision that restricted solicitation by roofers was blocked by a judge.
“What you hear so often from the insurance industry is it’s the attorney’s fees statute that drives costs,” Speaker Sprowls said.
While the court isn’t blocking other portions of the law, including changes to the state’s attorney fee statute, it’s unclear if regulators are enforcing SB 76.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation sent 8 On Your Side a statement saying, “A federal injunction issued last July currently prohibits the enforcement of the statute’s advertising provision. Other provisions of the statute have been challenged in a related case, and litigation is ongoing, so to date, no contractors have been disciplined under section 489.147.”
“We’re probably six months out from that bill really impacting people,” Speaker Sprowls said.
8 On Your Side asked why it’s OK to wait that long but did not get an answer.
Speaker Sprowls says he’s a champion for consumers. He wants families to have the option to pay less money for less coverage, and more money for more coverage.
“Unfortunately some of our colleagues in the Senate didn’t want to provide that option to homeowners, we did. And we continue to value consumer choice,” said Sprowls.