Florida lawmakers divided on how to resolve home insurance crisis
MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. – State lawmakers will decide this week during a special session how to beat away the state’s property insurance crisis.
They will vote on a range of measures to try to slow rate hikes and encourage insurance providers to stay in the state.
The legislator is at odds about how best to relieve the burden on customers.
“That’s one of the main issues we’re hearing – left and right,” said State Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-Palm City.
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“I wonder if we in Florida alone can really solve this problem because it’s such a huge problem,” said Sen. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach.
The state’s insurance crisis includes rate increases averaging more than 30%. Insurance companies have exited the Florida market or offered limited policies.
“Right now, there are so few insurers willing to do property insurance in the state of Florida,” Berman said.
This has resulted in the state’s so-called insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, receiving hundreds of thousands of policies, growing from about 750,000 policies to about 1.2 million.
“The whole state is in jeopardy when we have so many policies under Citizens,” Berman said.
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Legislators in both the House and Senate will consider bills that would, in part, require Citizens policyholders to purchase private insurance if they are offered a rate within 20% of the Citizens rate.
The bills would also add measures to keep insurers in the state, such as B. Providing $1 billion to a reinsurance fund.
“If there’s a major catastrophe, these insurance companies have the resources to pay out that claim,” Overdorf said.
He also supports more protections for insurance companies from so-called frivolous claims.
The bill, Overdorf explained, would no longer require insurance companies to pay attorneys’ fees for cases that lose customers.
“There used to be the Wild West and [the idea that] The insurance company will pay for it, so it’s not a big deal,” Overdorf said.
State Senator Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, opposes shift to insurance-related litigation.
“For the insurance companies that pay, they don’t see insurance growth,” Polsky said. “If they take away legal fees, how is anyone supposed to pay for a lawyer? If after working with an attorney they get the full payment because the insurance company wouldn’t do it on their own, they have to pay the attorney for the payment. This shall be their reimbursement.”
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Berman and Polsky said they are not confident the law will bring quick relief to customers.
“I’m not really convinced that it will help lower costs for homeowners, which is really the goal of this session,” Berman said.
“I hate to say it, but it certainly won’t bring immediate relief,” Polsky said. “The question is whether there could be relief down the line.”
“You might not see it next week, but you’ll likely see it in Q1, Q2 and ahead of next year’s hurricane season,” Overdorf said. “We wouldn’t be here in a special session before Christmas if we didn’t think it was going to work.”
Both sides agree on a few points in the bill, such as requiring Citizens’ customers to take out flood insurance. The bill would also require insurance companies to respond to claims more quickly.