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Lawmakers continue discussions on Florida homeowners insurance

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TALLAHASSEE – Florida lawmakers continue bouncing an insurance bill back and forth between the House and Senate as homeowners across the state face double digit increases.

Key provisions on roof replacements and attorney fees continue to be sticking points. The legislation sets limits on roof replacements.

The older the roof, the less the policy will pay, unless you opt for more expensive coverage.

“Ultimately, you are paying for your neighbor’s roof through higher premiums,” said State Sen. Jeff Brandes.

The exact formula is still being worked out, but both chambers are working with a sense of urgency.

“There’s a problem with insurance rates rising at 25 to 35 percent a year,” said Rep. Bob Rommel.

Lawsuits must be filed within two years of the damage instead of the current three.

Lawmakers say the timeframe allows unscrupulous contractors to make up claims, so it bans gift cards as incentives.

“Let me up on your roof. I’ll give you 500 bucks. I’ll get you a free roof and you won’t even have to pay your deductible,” said Rommel.

But opponents argued there’s no guarantee any savings will be passed on to homeowners.

“This chamber also rejected at least 6.2 percent rate saving per year,” said Rep. Emily Slosberg, referring to an amendment offered and rejected Tuesday.

The legislation also allows Citizens Insurance, which is now growing at 5,000 homeowners a week, to raise its rates more than the current 10 percent.

The bill would allow one percent more a year more until it reaches 15 percent.

“Why are we depriving property owners of vital protections, just when they need them most?” said Rep. Yvonne Hinson.

Senate co-sponsor Jeff Brandes calls the legislation the most important thing lawmakers must do this year.

“Rate increases of 30 or 40 percent a year are going to become common in the next two years if we do nothing,” said Brandes.

And if all the details can’t be worked out before the end of the week, Brandes and others said there will have to be a special session by the end of the summer.

Lawmakers are also negotiating a cap on attorneys fees, basing them on the percentage of their initial claim they are eventually awarded, if any, by a court.

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