Property insurance proposal revamped in Senate committee
Looking for answers as the state’s property-insurance problems mount, a Senate committee Monday approved a revised bill that includes targeting roof-damage claims that insurers blame for driving up costs.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the measure (SB 1728), filed by Banking and Insurance Chairman Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton. The bill deals with numerous issues, but perhaps the most-controversial has been its handling of claims for roof damage.
Under a change Monday, homeowners could face a new deductible for roof claims. Under the bill, that deductible could be 2 percent of the overall policy limits.
The effect would be that homeowners could face higher out-of-pocket costs if roofs need to be replaced, though the deductible requirement would not apply if roofs are damaged in named hurricanes or if homes are total losses.
An earlier version of the bill would have allowed insurers to sell policies that would not offer replacement coverage for roofs when the roofs are at least 10 years old. Instead, such policies would have reimbursed homeowners for roof damage based on depreciated values or the “actual cash” values of roofs.
That proposal drew opposition, at least in part, because critics said it would hurt low-income and elderly people who live in older homes. Critics of the revised proposal also raised concerns Monday about homeowners having to pay potentially thousands of dollars in roof deductibles.
The insurance industry in recent years has blamed questionable, if not fraudulent, roof claims for increasing costs. Lawmakers are considering the bill amid widespread problems in the industry that have led to insurers dropping customers and seeking large rate increases.
The latest example of the problems came Friday, when a judge placed Orlando-based St. Johns Insurance Co. in state receivership.
“We’re probably in a property-insurance crisis larger than we have seen since Hurricane Andrew,” said Gary Guzzo, a longtime insurance lobbyist who represented the Florida Insurance Council at Monday’s meeting. Boyd’s bill is now ready to go to the full Senate.
Ultimately, the Senate and House would need to reach agreement on an insurance measure before the scheduled March 11 end of the legislative session.