This legislative session we’ve been telling you about the bill that would change Florida’s property insurance landscape. The proposed bill was pushed through by lawmakers despite the fact that Florida has not been hit by a hurricane since 2005. Well, that bill has now become a law.
Essentially, the new law was created so it could strengthen property insurance companies that cover damages from hurricanes, fires, and other losses. It is also designed to curb a recent surge in sinkhole claims which insurers believe are purely fraudulent. The sponsor of the new law stated it would “promote a competitive market with solvent companies that our policyholders can rely on.”
However, the law does have its critics. Detractors of the law state the law would lead to higher premiums for all property owners. Additionally, the law also imposes new restrictions on public adjusters, and sinkhole claims, as well.
Specifically, this law also allows annual rate increases of up to 15 percent to cover higher reinsurance costs. This provides insurance companies with yet another excuse to cash in while making consumers vulnerable to serial premium hikes — without fixing the underlying problems plaguing Florida’s property insurance system.
Florida’s property insurance system has been an almost annual legislative headache since shortly after Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida in 1992 — the Category 5 storm killed caused about $16 billion in insured damage. Indeed, former Gov. Charlie Crist last year vetoed a bill that was similar except for the sinkhole provisions. However, back in 2007 legislators tried to protect consumers from crippling rate increases, thinking that was the best way to go. But the law signed by Gov. Scott did away with many of those consumer friendly protections and enhanced the insurance companies to ability to fight against insurance claims.
The law signed by Gov. Scott will also allow insurance companies to justify a new round of rate hikes for all of the hard working Floridians. This is so because the higher reinsurance rates will be an invitation to let insurance companies raise rates.
The new law also tightens restrictions on sinkhole claims, which the insurance companies say are costing them $500 million annually, and allows insurers to hold back part of a claims settlement until repairs are completed.
But that is not all that this law does. The law caps public adjuster compensation to 20 percent of the claim payment (10 percent for Citizens claims). The law also requires public adjusters to provide additional disclosure statements and notices.
These changes come as no surprise as the insurance lobby was able to convince our elected representatives that public adjusters spearhead the filing of allegedly fraudulent claims such as sinkhole claims. However, any move that restricts public adjusters is a restriction on the average Floridian because these individuals represent people who are having difficulties with their insurance claims. Their role is vital to a fair claims system as they have the knowledge and experience to navigate the complex claims process.
Insurers have become stronger. Accordingly, the public has become weaker. This fact highlights the reason why its important to hire a firm with the experience necessary to compete against Goliath insurance companies. At Alvarez & Barbara, LLP, we have this experience and the proven track record to compete in this new climate. Contact us today to discuss your claim.