The bills were presented as strategies for reducing property insurance costs and cases of fraud in the state, but their original solutions were alarming.
Now that Senate Bill 76 and House Bill 305 have been revised and resolved, it’s important to review what was initially proposed and what finally became law. The original legislation could have been devastating for Florida but also could have influenced policymakers throughout the country.
SB 76 sought to allow insurers to provide homeowners insurance policies that reduced coverage on aging roofs — 10years old or older — based on the type of roof. The applicable roof surface reimbursement schedule would have provided markedly lower coverage for shingle roofs, only 25% of the replacement cost value. While recovering from a hurricane, tornado, or other devastating weather event, homeowners would have been required to outlay thousands of dollars to repair their roofs, with the fundamental goal of making their homes livable again. The 10-year age limit was illogical since most shingle roofs have a 20-year-plus life, while tile and metal roofs can hold up as long as 50 years.
With its original wording, this bill would have essentially penalized homeowners for adequately maintaining their roofs. And when those homeowners needed help replacing damaged roofs, their insurance policies — which they dutifully paid over the years — would have been essentially useless. Thankfully, these stipulations were struck from the final bill.
The two bills were reconciled and passed by both the Florida House and Senate. The final version, which Gov. Ron DeSantis subsequently signed, made the following revisions to current property insurance laws and policies.
- The one-way attorney fee-statute has been replaced to make recovering attorney costs and fees contingent on obtaining an indemnity judgment that exceeds the insurance company’s pre-suit offer.
- The claims deadline has been reduced from three years to two years from the date of loss, but supplemental claims have an additional year.
- Plaintiffs must file a pre-suit demand at least 10 days prior to filing a lawsuit against an insurer; it must include the amount in dispute, attorney costs and fees, and an estimate of the demand. Insurers are allowed to require mediation or another form of dispute resolution after receiving such notice.
The initial bill sought to pose restrictions on roofing contractors and how they work by prohibiting contractors from soliciting homeowners to file an insurance claim, interpreting insurance policy provisions for homeowners, or advising the homeowners on their policies. The final law toned down those restrictions:
- All contractors are prohibited from soliciting or offering to perform public adjusting services unless licensed as a public adjuster.
- Public adjusters (and contractors) are prohibited from offering incentives, rebates, or waivers of deductibles to have property inspected.
- Contractors are prohibited from providing repairs for an insured without a contract that includes a detailed cost estimate for labor and the required repair materials.
- Roofers can be fined $10,000 for each violation.
Florida lawmakers who supported the original bills believe that the new law is a step in the right direction, but will not ultimately solve the rising costs that insurance companies are facing. They say that consumers should expect their premiums to continue to increase.
Undoubtedly, Florida roofers breathed a collective sigh of relief when the final version of the bill passed. Still, the very fact that these issues and limitations were being debated in Florida should be worrisome for the entire country. If Florida insurers had been given permission to offer less coverage for older roofs, other states’ insurers could have followed their lead. And other lawmakers could have imposed similar restraints on roofing contractors’ actions.
Had the original legislation passed, it likely would have benefited insurance companies, but it would have resulted in more challenges for roofing contractors and less protections for homeowners. Insurance fraud continues to be a problem and needs to be addressed; however, the use of such targeted legislation to restrict roofing contractors’ actions could have had unintended consequences.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.
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Trent Cotney is CEO of Cotney Attorneys & Consultants. He’s an advocate for the roofing industry, general counsel of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) and several other industry associations. Reach him at 866-303-5868 or go to www.cotneycl.com.