By Lydia Nusbaum
May 19, 2022 Updated 9:48 A.M. ET
TALLAHASSEE (FLV) – The crumbling property insurance market in Florida has prompted state lawmakers to rush back to Tallahassee to address the problems in a special session next week.
Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the legislature to convene to address property insurance market issues last month.
“I want to see a thriving property insurance market where consumers have more choices and options for coverage,” said Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes. “This market needs major reconstructive surgery.”
Florida residents are facing skyrocketing home insurance rates. There is story after story of premiums jumping even though customers have not made claims.
Thousands of residents have been dropped by their current home insurance companies.
FedNat Insurance Co. is the most recent company to announce it will cancel 68,000 policies. Those residents are scrambling with 45 days left to find another insurer before hurricane season.
Brandes said many of those people are going to rely on state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the insurer of last resort. He said Citizens is growing by 7,000 policies each week.
“And because consumers have less options, and they have, frankly, no options in many markets because homeowners companies just simply don’t want to write more business in Florida,” Brandes said.
The higher rates are due to fraudulent insurance claims. Lawsuits cost insurance companies a lot of money and lead them to jack up premiums or drive the company out of the state altogether.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday Florida has 8% of the property claims nationwide but 78% of the litigation nationwide.
“That is causing these premiums to escalate and so we have to address that it’s something that’s very important,” DeSantis said.
“Some people have seen obnoxious rate increases. Part of the reason that that happens is because we don’t really have a competitive market, a lot of these companies, major companies have have left the state because of how hostile the underlying framework is,” the Governor explained.
Brandes believes litigation needs to be addressed in the special session in order for the insurance market to properly stabilize. As of Tuesday morning, he had not seen legislation.
“Citizens is getting sued 1,000 times a month,” Brandes said. “That volume is what’s driving the cost of these companies and what’s ultimately going to, frankly, force people to start paying more in property insurance than they are on their mortgage in Florida.”
Brandes said the state needs to “fundamentally realign incentives” so people stop seeing their property insurance as a home maintenance contract.
“My roof is 20 years old. I can file a claim in Florida and I can get a brand new roof for the price of my deductible,” Brandes said. “As long as that is what’s going on, the sky’s the limit as far as rates are gonna go.”
Florida lawmakers attempted to address the property insurance market during the latest regular session but the Florida House and the Senate could not come to an agreement. Brandes said he is 50/50 on whether the special session will ultimately provide people with more options.
“Failing, I think it’s just not an option,” DeSantis said. “But the good news is on property insurance, I think we’re gonna get really, really significant reforms.”
Republican State Rep. Spencer Roach said there have been “recent talks and speculation” on whether the call for a special session would be expanded to include constitutional carry legislation. Constitutional carry would allow Floridians who follow the gun laws to conceal a handgun without obtaining a concealed weapons permit.
“Don’t rule anything out until we gavel in,” Roach said.
Roach pointed to the most recent example where Governor DeSantis announced mere days prior to the redistricting special session that the legislature would also tackle legislation to strip Disney of its “special privileges.”
Florida lawmakers will meet the week of May 23rd for the special session.
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