House property insurance bill put on hold

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A House committee Monday postponed consideration of a bill that would make changes in Florida’s property insurance system, after the Senate passed a significantly different measure this month.

House Commerce Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said the House bill (HB 305), sponsored by Rep. Bob Rommel, R-Naples, likely will come up Friday during a Commerce Committee meeting.

The House bill, in part, would gradually allow higher annual rate increases for customers of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., as state officials have become alarmed about an influx of policies to Citizens during the past year. Also, the bill would make a series of changes in the broader property insurance industry, including shortening the time for policyholders to file claims from three years to two years. Additionally, it would seek to prevent roofing contractors and public adjusters from soliciting business from policyholders, including preventing them from offering incentives to file claims.

The Senate bill (SB 76) would go further, allowing insurers to limit the amounts they pay for many roof damage claims. Insurers contend that questionable, or fraudulent, roof claims are helping drive up premiums. Also, the Senate bill, which was approved April 7, would take steps to limit fees paid to attorneys who represent policyholders in lawsuits against insurers.

The bills have come amid a backdrop of private insurers seeking double-digit rate increases and further restricting coverage they write, which has had the effect of driving up the number of policies in Citizens.