Florida lawmakers want to get homeowners insurance, lawsuits under control

The Sunshine State is home to many lawsuits involving homeowners insurance, and lawmakers have a plan to get lawsuits under control. So we looked at what that could mean for insurance coverage.

Insurance is designed to help protect homes. But as many people experienced after Hurricane Irma, getting claims paid to satisfaction can sometimes be a challenge.

In Southwest Florida, we know about hurricanes, storm damage and the high cost of homeowners insurance.

“Right now, rates are going crazy,” said Kagen Cooksley, with Regency Insurance Group. “Depending on where you are, [70% to] 80% rate increases are coming across people’s mailboxes right now.”

Lawmakers backing Senate Bill 76 hope to rein in costs, claims and lawsuits. Cooksley says there have been about 100,000 already this year. He calls it a major problem.

“These guys have been sitting on their hands for too long and let this problem just fester and fester until it’s erupting volcano, which is what we’re seeing right now,” Cooksley said.

The Senate bill calls for reducing the time you have to file a claim from three to two years, giving you actual value instead of the replacement cost based on the age of your roof, which might mean more out-of-pocket costs for you.

As for lawsuits, insurers must be allowed to inspect the property before anything is filed, and the suit outcome would dictate the attorney’s fees paid.

“I’m sure folks in Collier and Lee County have seen people knock on their door and said, ‘Hey, let me get up on your roof, and I’ll give you $500,'” said State Rep. Bob Rommel of Naples, who sponsored the House version of the bill. “And they’ve actually encouraged people to file probably claims that weren’t necessary.”

In the Florida House version of the bill, HB 305, it keeps the replacement costs, but Rommel says, if the state doesn’t do something to deter bad actors, rates will double in two years.

“We’re only 7% of the population for claims, but we’re 76% of lawsuits in America,” Rommel said. “If we have better carriers and there’s a less chance of a lawsuit, yes, rates will go down.”

With more competition, Rommel says people shopping for homeowner’s insurance will have more affordable options.

Cooksley says now is the time to act for everyone.

“With the legislation, yes, I think that it will help, and it’ll help stabilize the market,” Cooksley said.

Opponents of the bills say there is no guarantee this will lower rates for consumers.

Sen. Ray Rodrigues of Lee County voted against SB 76. WINK News reached out to him for comment, but we haven’t heard back.

The Senate sent its version of the bill to House lawmakers. Session ends in two weeks.

Reporter:Sara Girard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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