Insurance changes hit with second lawsuit
Article Courtesy of NEWS4JAX
By Jim Saunders
June 6, 2022
TALLAHASSEE – A contractors group and an Orlando-area
roofing firm Thursday challenged the constitutionality of a new law that
combines a property-insurance change with efforts to bolster the safety
of condominium buildings.
The lawsuit, filed in Leon County circuit
court, came after a separate challenge was filed Tuesday
against another bill that the Legislature passed last week
during a special session called to address problems in the
In Thursday’s case, the Restoration Association of Florida
and Florida Premier Roofing LLC are targeting a bill (SB
4-D) that, in part, changed a state law about roof damage.
But the highest-profile part of the bill placed new
requirements on condominium buildings and associations after
the deadly collapse last year of the Champlain Towers South
building in Surfside.
The lawsuit challenges the roofing change but also contends
that the overall bill is unconstitutional because it ties
together “voluminous distinct subjects.” The plaintiffs
contend it violates a constitutional requirement that laws
deal with single subjects.
“By way of example, but not limitation, the
establishment of mandatory structural inspections for condominium and
cooperative buildings lacks any cogent connection to regulating roofing
contractors and repairing and/or replacing roofing systems in
residential homes,” the lawsuit said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis called the special session to try to bolster a
troubled property-insurance market that has led to homeowners losing
coverage and seeing large premium increases. Lawmakers passed two bills
(SB 2-D and SB 4-D), which were quickly signed by DeSantis.
The condominium issue was added to SB 4-D during the special session
after the House and Senate earlier this year could not reach agreement
on a plan for trying to prevent future building collapses. Among other
things, the new law sets requirements for inspections and condominium
associations having adequate reserves to make repairs.
Lawmakers unanimously passed the measure.
In addition to alleging a violation of what is known as the
constitutional “single-subject rule,” the lawsuit filed Thursday also
contends that the roofing change is unconstitutional.
Insurers in recent years have blamed roof-damage claims for playing a
key role in driving up costs. Lawmakers made a change related to the
Florida Building Code that could lead to insurers repairing more roofs
instead of needing to replace them, according to a Senate staff
“Put simply, the insurance industry wanted, and the Florida Legislature
enacted, legislation aimed to significantly increase roof repairs after
property loss and substantially decrease the number of total roof
replacements when, in reality, they are vital to preserving a home after
severe weather events such as hurricanes occur,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleges, in part, that the measure violates due-process
rights because it conflicts with another state law that requires roofing
materials to match in quality, color and size when repairs are made.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs wrote that “many homeowners prefer to
replace damaged roofs when significant issues arise after a severe
weather event. Yet, their insurance companies — corporations that reap
the benefits of policy premiums — prefer to pay less and make repairs,
exposing the homeowner to further issues in the future. The new
statutory framework permits insurance companies to repair roofing
systems without adhering to the (roof-material) matching statute in
violation of Florida law.”
The Restoration Association of Florida, which lobbies on insurance
issues, also is a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Leon County
circuit court. Along with Air Quality Assessors, LLC, an Orlando firm
that does work such as mold testing and leak detection, the association
is challenging part of SB 2-D that put a new restriction on attorney
fees in lawsuits against insurance companies.