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Florida property insurance bills filed ahead of special session

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) will preside over the first legislative session under her leadership on Dec. 12 - 16.
Wilfredo Lee
Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) will preside over the first legislative session under her leadership on Dec. 12 - 16.

State lawmakers will consider legislation on property insurance, property tax relief for hurricane survivors and a statewide toll road credit program when they meet in Tallahassee on Dec. 12 - 16.

Florida lawmakers will consider several major changes to the state's property insurance laws in an effort to stabilize the market.

"The goal we all share is for Florida to have a robust property insurance market that offers homeowners the opportunity to shop for insurance that meets their needs and budget," Senate President Kathleen Passidomo wrote in a memo to lawmakers on Friday after the legislation was filed.

"We also want to make certain that when damage occurs, claims are paid promptly and fairly, so homeowners do not have to contend with time-consuming and expensive litigation."

Lawmakers will meet Dec. 12 -16 in a special legislative session to consider proposals aimed at fixing the state's property insurance market, offering property tax relief to survivors of recent hurricanes and establishing a statewide toll road credit program for frequent commuters.

Property Insurance

Two measures on property insurance — HB 1A and SB 2A — were filed on Friday. Both would eliminate one-way attorney's fees, establish an optional reinsurance program and shorten the amount of time that property insurance companies pay claims.

Here are some of the things the legislation would do:

  • Create the Florida Optional Reinsurance Assistance program (FORA), which allows insurance companies to purchase reinsurance at "reasonable" rates, with $1 billion from the state's general revenue fund and premiums paid to FORA
  • Reduce the amount of time that policyholders have to file a new or reopened claim from two years to one year and from three years to 18 months for a supplemental claim
  • Allows the Office of Insurance Regulation to use its discretion to issue fines and suspend or revoke an insurer's certificate of authority if the insurance company engages in unfair trade practices related to appraisals
  • Shortens the time insurance companies have to pay or deny claims from 90 to 60 days
  • Requires insurers to review and acknowledge claim communication and begin investigations within seven days, instead of two weeks
  • Cuts the time for insurers have to conduct a physical inspection from 45 days to 30 days
  • Eliminates one-way attorney's fees, which insurers must pay whenever they lose in court in commercial and residential property insurance disputes
  • Prohibits assignment of benefits, which is when part of a policyholder's insurance benefits get transferred to a third-party, such as a contractor
  • Increases the eligibility requirements for those renewing coverage through Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state-backed insurer of last resort

Disaster relief on the agenda

Lawmakers will also take up legislation that would provide property tax relief, housing assistance and funding for recovery projects to communities recovering from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. The proposals are contained in two disaster relief measures: SB 4A and HB 3A.

Here are some of the provisions of the disaster relief legislation:

  • Extends the time residents whose property was destroyed have to pay property taxes levied in 2022
  • Allows property tax refunds for the time that a residence is uninhabitable, so long as that time frame is at least 30 days
  • Allocates $350 million in matching funds for public assistance grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Allocates $150 million to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, of which $60 million would help residents recovering from the storms secure housing, make repairs, relocate and pay insurance deductibles and $90 million would help create new affordable housing in the affected areas
  • Allocates $251.5 million to the state Department of Environmental Protection for beach erosion projects, wastewater and stormwater recovery projects and hurricane reimbursement grants

Toll credit program

Lawmakers will consider measures to offer a 50% credit to SunPass commuters with at least 35 transactions per month. The toll relief program would last for one year, beginning on Jan. 1, 2023.

Lawmakers would appropriate $500 million to fund the program.

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.