FLORIDA — Former President Trump blasted DeSantis for giving insurance companies what he called widespread protections from lawsuits.
“Ron DeSanctimonious is delivering the biggest insurance company BAILOUT to Globalist Insurance Companies, IN HISTORY,” Trump wrote on Truth Social just after midnight on Thursday. “He’s also crushed Florida homeowners whose houses were destroyed in the Hurricane – They’re getting pennies on the dollar.”
Property insurance has become a hot-button issue in Florida, where consumers are now experiencing the highest premiums in the nation. In desperation, consumers are looking for new coverage largely based on premium price regardless of whether an insurer is financially sound.
FIXING PREVIOUS BAILOUTS
Florida has always been a unique state for property insurers. On a peninsula surrounded by water with a heavily-populated coastline, Florida homes are not only at risk of hurricanes and flooding but are susceptible to mold and mildew in our subtropical climate.
The Sunshine State was dubbed the “Plywood State” by local media in 2004 after it was battered by four hurricanes in only six weeks. The next year in 2005, four more storms affected the state, hammering insurers, many of whom left the state and never came back.
In the midst of the upheaval, former Governor Charlie Crist and the Florida Legislature created changes with HB 1A, 2007 that consumers are still feeling today. Imposing unnatural price controls on homeowners insurance, companies were prevented from charging homeowners premiums that accurately reflected the risk. Almost immediately, insurance companies began leaving the state.
Crist then dared insurance companies to leave Florida if they felt they couldn’t do business under regulations that forced them to lose money. State Farm Insurance Company, Florida’s largest underwriter of homeowners’ insurance at the time, announced it would stop writing homeowners’ policies in the state.
While efforts have been made over the years to correct the problems that arose from the 2007 legislation, last year’s special legislative sessions on insurance were the first time the governor and top legislators have agreed on a comprehensive solution.
DROPPING THE CURTAIN
In December, both chambers of the Florida Legislature passed what House leadership called “historic” insurance reforms. The new laws eliminated one-way attorney fees and the assignment of benefits.
“Data from the state’s service of process website reveals that the extension and misapplication of Florida’s one-way attorney fee statute led to a proliferation of lawsuits,” Ashley Kalifeh, Partner at Capital City Consulting, told The Florida Standard.
“Florida’s policymakers have tried a number of reforms to rein in this excessive litigation, but unfortunately, the impact of these reforms has been eroded or circumnavigated by lawyers,” Kalifeh added. In 2022, the Governor and Legislature dropped the curtain on these games for good.”
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?
Premiums are expected to increase at a time when record inflation is putting the squeeze on Floridians. Some homeowners have chosen to “go bare,” a risk when a home is paid off and the owner takes on the risk of going without insurance.
“No question, the bill they passed in December is going to have a solid, positive effect,” William Stander, an insurance industry consultant, told The Florida Standard. “But it only applies to policies issued or renewed after that bill became effective.”
Many homeowners who are scrambling to find new insurance will see some relief with a new policy, but until larger, brand-name companies come back to Florida to write new policies, consumers will have to wait it out.