TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — Members of the Florida legislature are convening in Tallahassee Monday for the start of a special session to address the state’s property insurance crisis.
For months, 8 On Your Side has documented the plight of homeowners in the Tampa Bay area. Many have seen double or triple-digit rate hikes. Thousands are losing coverage as the hurricane season starts.
“It is necessary for the State of Florida to act to stabilize the insurance market for Florida policyholders before the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season,” Gov. Ron DeSantis wrote in his proclamation calling for the special session last month.
The proposed legislation that Florida lawmakers will be working on was released late Friday.
In a memo to colleagues, State Sen. Jim Boyd, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance, wrote the Senate’s proposal “balances fair costs and protections for consumers while adding reasonable guardrails for insurance companies against the frivolous litigation and fraudulent claims that drive up rates for everyone.”
The Republican, who represents Manatee County and part of Hillsborough County, outlined additional measures. The proposal will attempt to reduce frivolous lawsuits by mandating that attorney fee multipliers only be awarded in rare and exceptional cases.
“The legislation allows property insurers to offer homeowners policies that include a roof deductible with an actuarially sound premium or credit and policyholders will have the option to choose the homeowner insurance policy that best suits their needs,” wrote Sen. Boyd.
The Senate’s bill also prohibits insurance companies from refusing coverage on homes with roofs less than 15 years old. Companies would be banned from dropping a policyholder due to roof age if the homeowner proves the roof has at least five years of useful life.
Insurers would also be required to submit data about the number of policies they issue, their rates and the number of policies they cancel to the Office of Insurance Regulation.
The changes expected to be proposed by the Florida House were also released late Friday. State Rep. Jay Trumbull, Appropriations Committee Chair, told colleagues in a memo that the proposals from the House will “curb abuses in the market without creating unintended consequences.”
The House bills will codify that “roofs that are more than 25% damaged but already comply with the 2007 Florida Building Code may be repaired instead of being required to be replaced.”
Jim Nastelli has been a resident of Spring Hill for 25 years. He has never filed an insurance claim on his property in Hernando County.
But come Aug. 28, smack dab in the middle of Hurricane Season, he will lose his coverage.
“There’s no reason why the insurance companies getting screwed by somebody should come out of my pocket,” said Nastelli. “I didn’t do it!”
A notice from American Integrity Insurance states Nastelli’s “roof age is ineligible.” He purchased a new roof 11 years ago.
“I don’t have $10,000 to put on a roof of my house,” he said.
Nastelli says he may end up going without insurance. He knows it’s risky.
“If we’re without insurance and the house gets torn up in a hurricane, we’re screwed,” he said.
But in Florida right now, even a new roof won’t protect you from cancellation.
Tom Colantuono, of Tampa, wants lawmakers to enact major reforms.
“Tell me why I was canceled?” said Colantuono. “Please get off your butts and do something. Help the people, don’t just help yourselves.”
Colantuono installed a new roof, hot water heater, air conditioning unit and windows. Despite that, FedNat insurance canceled his coverage, along with that of more than 68,000 other policyholders.
“They just want to give me like six weeks notice to go find another carrier. It’s ridiculous,” Colantuono said.
State regulators and insurance companies say frivolous, even fraudulent, lawsuits are raising rates and bankrupting companies.
8 On Your Side’s Investigator Mahsa Saeidi has heard from hundreds of homeowners in recent months, devastated by skyrocketing insurance premiums and concerned they would lose their homes. Four property insurance bills were introduced during the regular legislative session to address the insurance crisis, but each one failed.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, called on DeSantis in March to force a special session, which DeSantis said he would welcome. Brandes later tried to force a special session using a legislative maneuver that eventually failed around the same time the governor announced he would call a special session.
Now, with hurricane season just nine days away, lawmakers are looking to find a fix for the crisis. Mahsa Saeidi is in Tallahassee for the special session. Watch her reports on News Channel 8 and follow her for updates.
If you have a tip for Mahsa, shoot her an email to MSaeidi@WFLA.com.