Officials and industry leaders are reacting to Governor Ron DeSantis signing a bill into law on Friday that addresses premium increases and seeks to make the property insurance market more competitive.
Holding a roundtable discussion in Sarasota, the Governor signed SB 76, a bill meant to give relief to a large sector of the state’s insurance industry. The law restructures litigation rules for disputed insurance claims; barring contractors, public adjusters, and companies from soliciting Florida homeowners to make an insurance claim for roof damage. The law would also impose a fine of up to $10,000 when companies violate the law.
“I’m proud to sign SB 76 today to continue our mission of insurance reform in Florida,” said DeSantis. “Since my first days in office, I have been committed to doing whatever it takes to reduce the burden of property insurance on Florida families. That includes signing into law historic reforms to the assignment of benefits process and appointing principled justices to our state courts. I want to thank President Simpson, Speaker Sprowls, Representative Rommel, and Senator Boyd for their hard work to pass this thoughtful legislation.”
The measure would additionally narrow the time frame in which homeowners can file claims, from three years to two years.
Florida is making common-sense reforms to foster a property insurance market that benefits consumers and provides meaningful choices. We will continue to eliminate incentives that take advantage of homeowners and place upward pressure on premiums. https://t.co/oNJyeO3FIv pic.twitter.com/ATKFo2f06J
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) June 11, 2021
State Representative Bob Rommel, a Naples Republican who carried the House version of the bill, noted that the legislation will force contractors to be more transparent about claims, and give insurance carriers an incentive to invest in the Sunshine State.
“Florida’s property insurance market has been in crisis for years,” said Rommel. “Besides weather events, bad actors have been targeting homeowners and insurance companies. Over the past 7 years, insurance companies have paid out over $15 billion in claims, out of which over $10 billion went to attorney’s fees. SB 76 is a big step towards stopping the abusive practices of these few bad actors, where they encourage homeowners to file insurance claims or even lawsuits. We have over 1,100 people a day moving to Florida and we need to ensure that consumers have the ability to obtain affordable insurance policies from private companies and not just Citizens, which was originally set up as the insurer of last resort. SB 76 will stabilize the market and should attract new insurance carriers to Florida.”
State Senator Jim Boyd, who sponsored the final version of the measure, says the impacts of the law will take one year to 18 months to filter through the system before affordable rates start to show.
“Homeowners property insurance rates have increased by 20, 30, 40 percent or higher in some cases,” Boyd added. “Since 2013, $15 billion has been paid out in claims in Florida. From those funds, 71 percent went to attorney fees, 21 percent to insurers defense costs, and a mere 8 percent went to the property owners for their losses. Florida accounted for over 76 percent of all homeowners’ litigation in the country in 2019. With the passage of SB 76, I believe we will see a downward impact on those rates. I appreciate the Governor’s leadership on this issue that will save our constituents on their annual homeowners insurance costs.”
The Florida Chamber agreed, praising the law for cauterizing the wound brought on by bad actors.
“When Florida accounts for only 8% of the nation’s property insurance claims but 76% of national property insurance litigation, you know there is a problem,” said Mark Wilson, the Florida Chamber’s president and CEO. “The Florida Chamber thanks Governor Ron DeSantis for signing SB 76, which addresses some of the root causes that are rapidly increasing homeowner’s insurance rates. Thanks to the work of Senator Jim Boyd and Representative Bob Rommel, SB 76 contains meaningful attorney fee reform to bring all parties to the table and reins in roofing solicitation practices that were driving lawsuits due to questionable roofing claims.”
But critics of the legislation fear that the new law may increase rates for customers of the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. In response to this legislation, Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo scolded DeSantis for prioritizing his pockets over Floridians’ property insurance.
“One thing you have to give Governor Ron DeSantis credit for is his consistency when it comes to helping his campaign donors over everyday Floridians. This year, the Governor has raised taxes on all Floridians by $1 billion to fund tax cuts for the largest corporations, raised property taxes to slash impact fees for the largest developers, and now he’s raising property insurance rates for homeowners while making it easier for insurance companies to deny claims for damages and forcing people out of Citizens and into more expensive private plans,” said Ferrulo.
“This is a pattern for Governor DeSantis. At every turn, the Governor takes from the pockets of working Floridians in order to fatten the bottom line of the wealthiest and well-connected corporations in our state. The Governor’s message to Floridians is clear: you pay more while his cronies make bigger profits.”