A south Florida attorney who represents insurance policy holders in disputes with insurance companies is warning Florida residents that the property insurance legislation making its way through the Florida Legislature will substantially diminish the rights of property owners if they ever have an insurance claim, particularly for roof damage.
The bills, Senate Bill 76 and House Bill 305, change insurance coverage related to roof damage and replacement, reduce the time a homeowner has to file an insurance claim from three years to two, require that the insured party provided notice of the claim to the insurance company before filing a lawsuit, and change how attorney fees are awarded in property insurance litigation.
The bills single out roof-damage claims, as insurers say they have faced a surge of questionable and potentially fraudulent claims. Under the legislation, reimbursements could vary based on ages and types of roofs. Insurers would be required to provide full replacement coverage for roofs less than 10 years old. But they would be allowed to adjust roof claims to actual cash value if the roof is older than 10 years.
Michael J. Higer, a Partner with the Berger Singerman law firm, is part of the practice’s “Dispute Resolution Team.”
“This legislation affects every citizen in Florida — business or residential,” he said. “It will absolutely have an adverse impact on them.”
He said policy holders will be paying more and getting less for their property insurance and the changes to the compensation of attorney fees will make it harder for policyholders to find legal representation.
The Senate bill is sponsored by Senator Jim Boyd (R-District 21), who is a professional insurance agent. The bill addresses what insurance companies see as a “proliferation of litigation that has driven up the cost of property insurance across the state.”
“The only one’s whispering in their ears are special interest groups,” said Higer.
He said it is time for the average Joe or Mary homeowner to pick up the phone and call their Senators and Representatives about this legislation, before it is signed into law.
“This legislation is an overbroad response to purported evils in the insurance world as opposed to addressing specific concerns, all in an effort to eliminate or substantially reduce consumer’s access to the courts,” said Higer.
“I hope we can wake up on person out there to say this stuff matters to me and I’m going to say something about it,” he said.
The bill has passed the Senate and the House version is in the House Commerce Committee, awaiting a vote. If signed into law, the legislation will take effect July 1.