Fla. Gov. Crist Signs Property Insurance Bill

Three days after a Florida special legislative session on insurance rates for homeowners, Gov. Charlie Crist signed legislation that promises to provide insurance reform, including rate reductions and an expansion of Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s offerings.

The bill also includes provisions that require insurers to pay claims within 90 days and disallow the dropping of policyholders during hurricane season.

“Today, we have a message for the people of Florida: ‘Help is on the way!’ We have heard the calls for help from Floridians suffering from high insurance rates,” said Crist. “With this legislation, the powerless have become the powerful, and the credit goes to the people of Florida for letting their voices be heard.”

“This legislation is an important step in the right direction for Florida’s homeowners,” said Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp. “Thanks to Governor Crist’s tireless leadership on this issue, property insurance is more affordable for Floridians.”

Crist praised House Speaker Marco Rubio and Senate President Ken Pruitt, as well as Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller and House Minority Leader Dan Gelber, for the bipartisan partnership that brought about the legislation.

In summary, House Bill 1A now signed into law provides the following changes to Florida’s insurance law:

•The bill expands the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund that allows insurers to purchase less expensive reinsurance and pass those savings on to consumers.

•Allows Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to compete with private insurers. The bill freezes rates, repeals all 2007 rate increases and provides refunds for consumers who have already paid those increases

•Prevents insurance companies from raising rates without state approval, from dropping policyholders during hurricane season and from delaying payment of claims. Insurers are required to allow coverage options and installment payments for premiums. The Insurance Consumer Advocate is to provide a consumer rating for each insurance company for Floridians’ consideration when choosing an insurance company.

•Eliminates regional exemptions to the Uniform Building Code, with the goal of reducing the number of buildings damaged or destroyed by storms, and requires insurers to take into account hardening of homes when establishing rates.

•Provides the first step in eliminating a practice where insurance companies can sell only automobile insurance and notproperty insurance in the state.

Source: Office of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist