Florida Senate approves property insurance changes

Florida Senate approves property insurance changes
Florida Senate approves property insurance changes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Property insurance rates are on the rise with insurers reporting $1.6 billion in losses last year.

Florida lawmakers are hoping legislation passed Wednesday through the Senate will help lessen the blow, but even with the proposed changes, rates will likely keep increasing in the short term.

Last year the state approved more than 100 rate increase requests from property insurers. More than half were double-digit jumps.

“Floridians should expect their homeowners insurance rates to double within the next three years,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

Brandes argues fraud and excessive litigation are to blame.

“We’re 8% of the total U.S. market and 75% of the total U.S. lawsuits,” said Brandes.

He’s co-sponsoring legislation that aims to lower rates by limiting attorneys fees for claim litigation, reducing required coverage for roof replacements and limiting the time claims can be filed from three to two years.

“This system isn’t designed to be a home maintenance contract. This is here to take care of catastrophic loss that a homeowner may not be able to cover themselves,” said Brandes.

Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, believes insurers are playing with their numbers.

”They hide their profits. They pay them to sister and related companies,” said Farmer.

The House version of the bill requires insurance companies to allow the state to see what they pay affiliates to ensure profits aren’t being hidden. Farmer likes the idea, arguing past insurance reforms haven’t translated to customer savings.

“The insurers are just cooking the books and coming here and crying poverty to us and everything is being done on the backs of homeowners,” said Farmer.

But Brandes said there’s no question Florida insurance companies are bleeding cash.

“We lost an insurance company in Florida on Friday to an insolvency,” said Brandes.

The changes proposed in the Senate wouldn’t make an immediate impact. Brandes said homeowners can expect a 30% to 50% rate increase next year even if the legislation passes.

The Senate approved the bill 27 to 13.

The House version still has one more committee stop before reaching the House floor.