TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida lawmakers will reconvene their special session on Tuesday to address the state’s property insurance crisis.
At a Committee on Appropriations meeting Monday, State Sen. Jim Boyd said the proposed bills would not lower property insurance rates anytime soon. The goal is to stabilize the market and ensure that homeowners can obtain coverage, even if they have an older roof.
The proposals on the table would ban insurance companies from automatically refusing coverage to homeowners with older roofs.
It also provides state dollars to stormproof homes and limits attorneys fees in lawsuits.
“I don’t think they go far enough. This market needs so much more and, frankly, consumers need more,” said State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican representing St. Petersburg.
Sen. Brandes spearheaded the push for the special session.
“To me, there’s nothing in this legislation right now that’s going to provide immediate relief, or even really the hope of rate relief, even in 18 to 24 months,” he said.
Senators were able to ask questions and propose amendments on the Senate floor Tuesday. The debate and vote is expected on Wednesday.
“What we saw today was really solutions that had been proposed years ago and had we implemented them years ago, we wouldn’t be here,” said Sen. Brandes.
Under the Senate’s proposals, insurers can’t refuse to write policies on homes with roofs less than 15 years old. Furthermore, if a roof is older than 15 years, insurers would be blocked from not writing a policy if an inspection shows the roof has at least five years of useful life.
Sen. Brandes tells 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi he’s not happy with that provision.
“No, that provision in the bill, while it seems like it’s consumer friendly, is ultimately going to come back and bite the market,” he said. “Whether it’s higher reinsurance costs, which will ultimately be passed on to consumers, or frankly companies that just pull out of Florida.”
He says the provision takes away a major safeguard for insurers.
“So even if you got a brand new roof, they’re still not going to write you because they won’t write in that region as they’re trying to manage their book,” Sen. Brandes said.
Sen. Brandes believes it’s unlikely to get an amendment to the bills.
The proposed legislation creates a $2 billion reinsurance fund to help insurers cover losses. Despite that, Sen. Brandes says there is a real chance that one out of five companies will not be able to find reinsurance.
“If that’s the case, then you could be talking about a million or two million policies that immediately have to go back out to the marketplace,” he said. “There’s still a layer below that 2 billion [dollars] and that’s where they can’t get coverage. So it’s really a technical issue but it has massive implications for the market.”
Sen. Brandes is supporting the bills because they’re a step in the right direction. He says the solution to the property insurance crisis is to move to an actual cash value standard on roofs, and get rid of Assignment of Benefits and one-way attorney fees statutes.
“If we got rid of those three things, you would see this market radically improve, you would see companies coming into the market versus fleeing,” said Sen. Brandes.
The full session of the Florida House meets at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Mahsa Saeidi will have details from the session tonight starting at 5 on News Channel 8.