Legislation to Help Lower Florida Homeowners Insurance cost

03 Mar

There are currently three bills that are working their way through the Florida Legislature which are designed to deal with the cost of homeowner roofing claims, attorney’s fees as well as problems with insurance carriers being notified regarding lawsuits. The goal of this legislation is to help lower Florida homeowners insurance cost which has become a major issue in the Sunshine State.

These bills come less than two years after Florida passed legislation designed to deal with assignment of benefits issues. The latest bills under consideration are meant to deal with some of the AOB issues that were not addressed in the 2019 legislation. 

Here is a quick overview of the three bills being considered:

Senate Bill 76: This bill would amend Florida statute (627.428) which deals with awarding attorney’s fees for claims under the lodestar fee. This bill would make deviation from this method acceptable only under “rare and exceptional” circumstances. 

The lodestar method simply determines what a reasonable fee for an attorney would be, the following determinations would be required:

  • The number of hours reasonably worked on the case
  • A reasonable hourly rate to apply to the related hours
  • The reasonable number of hours would be multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate creating the lodestar number

This bill would also allow insurers to limit coverage on roof claims. The bill would let insurers include a roof surface reimbursement schedule to their policies which allows for reimbursement for roofing repairs, replacement and installation based on the age of the roof, unless the roof is less than 10 years old.

Basically, insurers could take the age of the roof into consideration when calculating the value of the claim and take depreciation in to account when settling a roofing claim. The schedule would also set the following reimbursement amounts:

  • No less than 70% for metal roofs
  • 40% for concrete, clay tile, wood shaker, and shingle roofs
  • 25% for any remaining roof types

Senate bill 76 also changes certain statues to cover all property insurance claims, not just those related to wind or hurricanes. It would now bar all property claims if the insurer is not provided notice of claim or supplemental claim within two years of the date of the loss.

The statute would require any claimant(s) to provide at least 60 days’ notice of their intention of initiating litigation against their insurance carrier prior to filing the lawsuit and the notice must include the following:

  • The alleged acts or omissions of the insurer
  • The insured’s demand
  • Reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees incurred by claimants via calculation of the lodestar fee

This would allow insurers to inspect and evaluate the demand and allow insurers to abate any lawsuit if said notice was not provided in compliance with the proposed statute. 

House Bill 305: The Florida House of Representatives has introduced a companion bill to SB76 which is House Bill 305. This bill would amend all of the same statutes as SB 76 except it excludes the wording that requires a claimant to provide notice of intent to initiate litigation that is in SB76.

Senate Bill 212: The Florida Senate also introduced this bill which is a standalone bill that addresses attorney fees and multipliers. This bill would only adopt the lodestar fee for property insurance policy lawsuits, not all insurance lawsuits. 

All three of these bills would go into effect on July 1, 2021 if they pass and are signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

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