Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that legislation to address property insurance rate increases will come before the end of the year, but it will likely have to wait until after the November elections, when a new House Speaker will take over.
The current Speaker, Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican, said during Session he’d prefer to see how SB 76 — the law passed in 2021 that aimed to reduce attorneys fees in some cases — affected the market before pushing other major reforms. After the 2022 elections in November, Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, is poised to take over as Speaker.
“Basically that (SB 1728) ran into a brick wall in the House,” DeSantis said of the property insurance bill that failed during the Session that ended earlier this month. “It won’t wait until next year. The latest it will be is when Speaker Renner takes over I think right after the election. … That’s the latest it will go. I’d love to do it before then.”
DeSantis was speaking to reporters to announce he’s calling back lawmakers for a Special Session to pass new congressional redistricting maps after he vetoed their first attempt Tuesday. The Session will be held April 19-22, but so far there are no other issues that will be included in the call. DeSantis said he’d be open to Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, adding other issues, including property insurance reforms.
The issue came up during the Cabinet meeting before DeSantis’ announcement, where Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said regulators are now allowing companies to offer policies to homeowners with reduced coverage for roofs and with new roof-only deductible policies to reduce claim costs.
Although the Senate included a provision allowing new roof deductible policies in SB 1728 that sought to address the large roof-related claims that are helping to drive up rates in the state, the House never seriously considered the plan and the bill failed.
Nevertheless, the option — Altmaier stressed that the provision is up to the homeowner — is being made available to companies to offer as rates continue to climb.
“The key here is that it’s at the consumer’s choice,” Altmaier said. “What seems to be the issue of the day is roof claims, not only the large number of them but the cost as well.”
Altmaier later added that the “issue of the day” often changes. Historically in Florida, sinkhole claims, mold claims and piping claims from water damage have driven rates as, insurers have claimed, contractors have sought to push homeowners to file claims for minor damage. DeSantis said this was happening now with roofs — a contractor will solicit business in a neighborhood and replace an entire roof for minor damage, boosting the cost of the claim.
For Altmaier, the real key is tamping down litigation costs, which are the underlying driver of insurance rates. He noted Florida has 8% of the property insurance coverage in the country but accounted for 76% of the litigation in 2019.
But none of the reforms considered by the Legislature during the last Session would reduce rates for homeowners in the short term. Altmaier said the key was to create a more friendly environment for insurers to get more companies to add policies or to add new companies in Florida.
Two companies have recently gone into receivership, although one company, Slide Insurance, was able to take on 147,000 policies that one of the bankrupt companies held. Altmaier said his office has had informal discussions with some other companies to enter the Florida market, but it’s unlikely they’ll come to fruition so close to hurricane season, which begins June 1.
“People have an appetite to be here, we just need to create a positive framework for our consumers,” Altmaier said.