Florida Consumer Advocate Dartland to Crist: Sign Property Insurance Bill

The chorus urging Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to sign an omnibus property insurance measure passed by the Legislature is growing.

One of the state’s leading consumer advocates, Walter Dartland, of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast, has joined Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, the insurance industry and lawmakers in urging Crist to sign SB2044, which seeks to reduce some of the fraud and claims that are driving up insurance rates and driving some insurers into bankruptcy.

“Hurricane season is less than a month away and there is nothing more important than ensuring appropriate insurance reforms are in place to give property owners peace of mind during what could be an extremely active season. Florida is far too familiar with the devastation caused by rain, high winds and flooding, which is why I am urging Governor Crist to sign SB 2044 into law,” Dartland said in a statement.

Dartland said the legislation is important for consumers because it retains state regulation of rate hikes.

“While the measure is not the perfect solution to the property insurance crisis, it is a first step and includes many provisions that protect consumers. Most importantly it extends a law that was set to expire this year, which would have allowed insurers to implement rate hikes before gaining approval by regulators,” he said.

“I agree with the Insurance Commissioner McCarty that SB 2044 is an important piece of legislation that will help protect consumers from unsupported rate increases, reduce fraud and help guard against disruptions in the marketplace,” he said.

Crist has said he might veto any bill allowing insurers to raise rates. Under the bill, insurers will be allowed to pass along certain reinsurance and inflation costs that could raise premiums up to 10 percent but any such increases would still need state approval.