Senate Bill 76 cleared its second senate committee, making it a stronger possibility that the proposed property insurance legislation becomes law. If it makes its way through, Florida homeowners can expect to see major changes to the way their insurer handles damaged roof claims. Additionally, attorneys are likely to see changes affecting the lodestar method.
What is Senate Bill 76?
The bill states:
Property Insurance; Providing that, for certain attorney fees awarded for claims arising under surplus lines property insurance policies, a strong presumption is created that a lodestar fee is sufficient and reasonable; providing that certain provisions relating to homeowners' policies, offers of replacement cost coverage, and offers of law and ordinance coverage do not prohibit insurers from providing specified property insurance policies by including roof covering reimbursement schedules; revising property insurance coverages for which a notice of claim must be given to the insurer within a specified timeframe; requiring notice of intent to initiate litigation, etc.
In common language, the bill proposes the following changes to property insurance claims for roof damage:
- It shortens the time you have to file insurance claims.
- It would put a cap on when multipliers pertain to lodestar attorney's fee awards.
- It requires closing statements to be itemized and filed with the Department of Financial Services.
- It would allow insurance companies to offer discounted roof replacement policies based on the age of the roof.
How Can Senate Bill 76 Affect Me as a Homeowner?
Here in Florida, roof damage is common. Thanks to hurricanes and hail, many homeowners experience damage to their homes, and a regular location for that damage is the roof. This bill would essentially change your chances of getting appropriate coverage for any roof damage you suffer. Right now, insurance companies are in a serious financial bind where they have consistently lost money. Insurers argue fraud, dirty contractors, storms, and attorney's fees as the culprits that have hijacked the cost of their policies. One major concern is that new roof claims are still being filed for the hurricanes of 2017 and 2018.
Reports show the following hikes in policies:
- Brightway Insurance claims one policy went from $1,800 to $6,000
- Southern Fidelity just raised its property insurance rates 31.1%
- Centauri Insurance has requested a 31.9% property insurance hike
Proponents of the bill argue that the changes included will help lower policy rates, but they have yet to specify how. In the meantime, homeowners are left to consider the changes that have been specified and how they will affect their property coverage.
As of now, homeowners have three years to file a claim for roof damage, but the bill would shorten that time to just two years. Often, roof damage does not present itself immediately after a storm. It could be that it takes several months to even notice how a storm has negatively impacted your roof. Shortening the amount of time to file a claim will require homeowners to be more vigilant of potential damage. Additionally, policy holders will now have to provide a 60-day notice to the insurance company before filing a lawsuit.
When it comes to coverage for your roof damage, there will be a drastic change in the coverage you receive. Instead of getting the entire cost of a roof replacement, the bill proposes a reimbursement amount that is based on the lifespan of the roof. Imagine the cost of a brand new roof, but now deduct the amount of years that have already been put on your current roof. What you are then left with is the basis of the coverage you would receive to put towards your roof damage. It is a stark difference from what is currently offered, and all homeowners should be aware of this serious effect. Most opponents of the bill are concerned that homeowners do not quite understand the severity of the decrease in coverage that comes with this bill. Additionally, this would penalize homeowners who have paid their premiums faithfully for decades. In a state like Florida, roof damage is bound to happen and reducing coverage will likely hurt most policy holders instead of helping them.
Your Next Steps in Closing Property Damage Claims
Laws are constantly changing, and it is up to you to make yourself as knowledgeable of these changes as you can. However, a trusted attorney can help you safeguard your home and policies, but it is up to you to protect yourself during these moments of emergency. If you believe your insurance company is purposely avoiding your open claim due to roof damage, contact us today at Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh. You need legal representation you can trust to gather inventory of your damage, document expenses, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. Our experienced team is ready to fight for you and get you back on the road to property damage recovery.