Florida legislators approve property insurance
measures, now await DeSantis' signature
Article Courtesy of WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7
By Jim Saunders
December 16, 2022
Many Democrats say the bill wouldn’t provide
immediate rate relief to homeowners.
Supporters said the plan will stabilize the property-insurance market.
Critics said it doesn’t do enough to help homeowners.
But with hurricane season starting next week, Florida House members
overwhelmingly gave final approval Wednesday to a measure that seeks to
stem property-insurance problems that have led to policyholders across
the state losing coverage and seeing soaring premiums.
Rep. Jim Mooney, R-Islamorada, said lawmakers are “not going to fix
insurance in a week.” But he said lawmakers needed to do something to
address the problems.
“I think this bill gives us the ability to stabilize the market,” Mooney
Many Democrats, however, criticized the bill (SB 2-D), saying it
wouldn’t provide immediate rate relief to homeowners.
“Smoke and mirrors. Dog and pony show,” Rep. Angie Nixon,
D-Jacksonville, said. “Unfortunately, that seems to be all we’re doing
House members voted 95-14 to approve the bill, which passed the Senate
on Tuesday in a 30-9 vote. The bill is ready to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis,
who called a special legislative session this week to deal with the
The bill focuses on issues that insurers have repeatedly cited for
problems in the industry, including costs of roof-damage claims,
inability to find or afford reinsurance and litigation over claims.
The House and Senate could not agree on a property-insurance bill during
this year’s regular legislative session. But problems have continued to
mount in the insurance market, with three carriers — Lighthouse Property
Insurance Corp., Avatar Property & Casualty Insurance Co. and St. Johns
Insurance Co. — being declared insolvent and placed into receivership
One of the highest-profile parts of the newly passed bill deals with
reinsurance, which is essentially backup coverage for insurers. Carriers
need to have reinsurance contracts in place as soon as June 1, but, at
least in some cases, are struggling to find affordable coverage.
Insurers have long been required to purchase certain amounts of coverage
through the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, a state program that
provides relatively cheap reinsurance. Under the bill, the state would
provide $2 billion in tax dollars to provide another “layer” of
reinsurance to insurers that otherwise might not be able to buy it in
the private market. Also, the bill calls for savings under that part of
the bill to ultimately be passed along to ratepayers.
Some Democrats described the $2 billion as a giveaway, with Rep. Michael
Grieco, D-Miami Beach, saying it is “corporate welfare” for insurance
companies. But Bob Rommel, R-Naples, pushed back against that
“They (insurers) are on life support,” Rommel said. “They barely have a
Insurers in recent years have also blamed questionable, if not
fraudulent, roof-damage claims for driving up costs.
The bill, in part, would allow insurance policies to include new
deductibles for roof damage. The deductible amounts would be 2 percent
of the overall insured value of homes or 50 percent of the costs to
replace roofs. For example, the 2 percent deductible on a $300,000 home
would be $6,000.
Deductibles would not be charged on such things as hurricane damage or
situations in which trees fall and puncture roofs.
Meanwhile, the bill would place a restriction on insurers that refuse to
write or renew policies because of the ages of roofs. The companies
could not refuse to provide coverage to homes with roofs that are less
than 15 years old if the decisions are based solely on the ages of the
Insurers also have long complained about large numbers of lawsuits in
Florida about claims. The bill would make a series of changes designed
to reduce lawsuits and attorney fees in litigation about insurance
That includes putting new restrictions on what are known as “bad faith”
lawsuits against insurers. Also, the proposal would seek to make it
harder for plaintiffs’ attorneys to receive “contingency fee
multipliers,” which can significantly increase amounts paid to lawyers.
Rommel said lawmakers need to take away fear of Florida’s legal climate
to help draw more insurance companies to Florida.
But Rep. Dotie Joseph, a North Miami Democrat who unsuccessfully tried
to remove the bad-faith part of the bill, said it could limit the
ability of homeowners to fight insurers in court.
“We’re talking about the bad players who take advantage of the little
guy,” Joseph said.
During hours of discussion Wednesday, Democrats proposed amendments
aimed at reducing or freezing rates, though the amendments were
“I happen to live in Broward County. Our homeowners’ rates are through
the roof,” said Minority Leader Evan Jenne, a Dania Beach Democrat who
proposed a rate freeze for a year.
But House bill sponsor Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, said such proposals
could lead to more instability in the insurance market because they
would lead to rates that are not actuarially sound.
“If we’re going to address the rates, the only thing we can do is to
address the cost drivers for those rates,” Rep. Ralph Massullo,