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Senate Approves Property Insurance Changes

Roof Contractor Talking On Cell Phone.
Tomasz Zajda
/
Adobe Stock
Close Up Of Male Contractor Near Roof Covered With Black Ceramic Tiles Talking On Cell Phone.

Property insurance rates continue to go up as leaders in the industry say exaggerated claims are the main reason. In the past, the rate increases have been blamed on sinkholes, hurricanes and flooding. Now there’s a new culprit: roofers.

Session after session lawmakers come to Tallahassee and complain about bad actors in the insurance industry driving up rates. By the end, there’s usually some kind of fix that’s touted as a way to bring the rates down. But Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) says, the latter rarely happens.

"I opened up my bill the other day and I was shocked to see that my rates went up by more than 20%," said Brandes. "And you know what? That last year they went up 20%."

Florida Office of Insurance Regulation head David Altmaier warned lawmakers just last month that bad actors in the roofing business are the ones to blame.

"These don’t appear to be normal roofing claims in which a consumer notices that they’ve had a loss and calls their insurance companies. But instead, solicitations," said Altmaier.

Altmaier says a company will offer customers a free roof sometimes giving people a cash incentive to work with the company. The company will then charge the roof claim to the property owners’ insurance policy.

Sen. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) is sponsoring SB 76. One of the many changes it’ll make would reduce the time in which a claim can be made. The idea is that shrinking the timeframe will stop the false claims.

"It also creates a uniform two-year filing for property insurance claims, supplemental claims or reopen claims," said Boyd. "So in other words, if you have a claim on your property for any reason you have to file it within two years."

Even some Republicans are skeptical about the timeframe limits, and a state report noted that the timeframe for filing a claim isn’t the problem. Homeowners opposed to time limits argue they would be punished, and not the roofing company or attorney who the legislation is meant to target. Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) tried to amend the bill.

"There’s an assertion that all claims filed near the end of the three years are fraudulent if they’re filed by non-owners or if they’re filed late," said Rouson. "But they’re filed because they’re latent or hidden defects that have happened that were not discoverable in the first two weeks, or three weeks, or first year."

The amendment failed. Several lawmakers who voted for the bill say they want to see it changed before it reaches the Senate floor.