“What Florida lawmakers failed to legislate during the last session on property insurance, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) is now accomplishing to some extent through encouraging regulation. “said Lisa Miller, an insurance industry lobbyist, in her April 11 newsletter. .
Altmaier has released several changes at the request of individual insurance companies. It allowed companies to issue roofing deductibles and compel policyholders to resort to mediation or arbitration instead of going to court. Two of these policy changes resulted in a lawsuit challenging their constitutionality for allegedly violating state law.
Miller applauded Altmaier for taking the initiative to pass new regulations, some of which were in the bills that did not cross the finish line and are likely to be incorporated into bills tabled for the extraordinary session which begins on Monday.
But Amy Boggs, a property insurance attorney who represents homeowners and businesses in claims disputes, said Altmaier is ending the legislative process by approving failed proposals.
“Litigation arbitration – that failed. Roofing approval failed,” Boggs said. “Here they are in the sphere of the legislative bubble talking about changing fees, and he’s in the background approving things.”
The governor’s call for the special session asks the Legislature to consider six things: property insurance, reinsurance, changes to Florida’s building code to improve the affordability of property insurance property, Office of Insurance Regulation, civil remedies and credits.
Political insiders and industry experts had predicted that the legislation would likely address these key topics: changing the Hurricane Disaster Fund, a 2% deductible for roof damage, cleaning up the definition of awarding benefits to contractors, eliminating automatic payments for third-party attorneys who receive benefits, and limiting the ability of attorneys to charge double or triple their normal rate.
After a week of intense negotiations, House and Senate leaders tabled their bills Friday night, which include many of these issues. They also proposed creating a $2 billion fund that insurers could draw from for hurricane losses, banning insurers from refusing to underwrite or renew policies on roofs less than 15 years old, to provide $150 million to strengthen homes against hurricanes and to strengthen regulatory oversight.
Altmaier has already reduced so-called free roofs by allowing insurance companies to offer roof deductibles and a payment schedule for roof surfaces similar to what was proposed in a bill that was not approved during the regular session, Miller said.
“Some agents say the effect of this will be negligible because they don’t think consumers will buy the coverage,” she said.
Additionally, she said, the Florida Building Commission is considering creating an exemption from the state’s requirement to replace or repair an entire roof if 25% or more is damaged.
“This idea, pushed by the Florida Roofing and Sheetmetal Contractors Association, would help keep roofs in top condition and avoid costly replacement costs often borne by insurance companies,” Miller said.
Another change issued by Altmaier relaxes the rule that replacement materials must exactly match the damaged materials.
The OIR was also considering a request to “lower the level of catastrophic loss retention they must incur before drawing from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund,” which would require legislative action.
Altmaier in March approved a policy change requested by American Integrity Insurance to require owners or third parties to whom they award benefits to agree to mediation and arbitration instead of going to court, Miller said.
If the policyholder or a third party engages an attorney to represent it, the carrier will not be required to pay its attorney’s fees even if the policyholder prevails in the dispute.
Many Florida homeowners hit by huge premium increases in recent months have had the option of accepting arbitration to get a lower rate on their insurance premiums.
The Restoration Association of Florida and Orange County Air Quality Assessors sued Altmaier and American Integrity, claiming the changes were unconstitutional and against state law.
The same lawsuit alleges that Altmaier gave Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Co. the right to require a homeowner to obtain approval before they could assign their policy benefits to a contractor and would not have to repay the owner for repairs made without company approval. .
These changes violate policyholders’ constitutional rights to be compensated for legal costs if they prevail in a claims dispute and to assign benefits to a third party, according to the lawsuit.
“By approving the policies, Commissioner Altmaier violated the public policies of the State of Florida as enacted by the Legislature, which will result in prejudice to plaintiffs if the amendments are not reversed,” said the trial.
Policyholders waive their rights and get nothing in return, Boggs said.
“The real issue for homeowners and policyholders is that they need to have this insurance to keep their mortgage,” Boggs said. “They’re in a monopolistic system in that they have no say in what coverage they get, the carrier dictates the price, and the insured has no power to negotiate the price.”
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