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Personal Lines Florida Governor Signs Property Insurance Reform Bill

On May 26, 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bipartisan property insurance bill to provide some relief to consumers facing rising insurance costs within the state. This bill, known as Senate Bill 2B, is one of the most significant forms of legislation passed in an effort to alleviate ongoing challenges across Florida’s property insurance market. Specifically, the bill was implemented to help reduce rising insurance costs, increase claim transparency and limit the number of frivolous lawsuits that have contributed to elevated expenses. Keep reading to learn more about the bill.

Pro-consumer Measures
The legislation within Senate Bill 2B provides $2 billion in reinsurance relief through the Reinsurance to Assist Policy program to benefit policyholders over the next two years. The bill requires insurance companies to file a supplemental rate filing once enrolled in the program to provide relief to policyholders.

Through this bill, Florida homeowners can receive grant funding to help make their homes more durable against storms, thus minimizing potential property claims stemming from storm damage. This initiative is being accomplished through the $150 million dedicated to the My Safe Florida Home Program. This program gives consumers the option to retrofit their homes for hurricanes and receive subsequent premium discounts.

Also, under the bill, insurance companies are no longer allowed to deny coverage based solely on the age of a policyholder’s roof if it is less than 15 years old or determined to have only five years of life left. Furthermore, the bill requires annual reporting of the average premium discounts for participating Floridians by the Department of Financial Services.

Claims Transparency Changes
Senate Bill 2B also restricts insurance companies from denying claims without communicating sufficient reasoning to policyholders. In other words, insurance companies will have to provide ample reasoning whenever they deny or partially deny a
claim going forward. This change will help consumers have better access to valuable information throughout claims process. In addition, the bill requires insurance companies to provide policyholders with adjuster reports in a timely manner.

Anti-fraud and Legal Reforms
Senate Bill 2B also is intended to disincentivize frivolous lawsuits. In particular, the bill limits attorney fees for property insurance claims and insurancerelated cases; such fees are one reason insurance companies have had to increase their rates. Litigation costs have increased and, therefore, insurance companies’ expenses for claims involving lawsuits have risen. By limiting attorney fees, the bill seeks to minimize overall litigation costs for insurance companies and, in turn, help lower rates for policyholders.

Gulfshore Insurance is a Naples, Florida based insurance agency specializing in home and homeowners insurance, car and auto insurance, boat and yacht insurance, property insurance, umbrella insurance, valuables insurance for fine art, jewelry, wine, and more. Navigating insurance requires an experienced and trusted insurance agent who understands your high net worth risks and exposures. Gulfshore Insurance services Naples, North Naples, Port Royal, Park Shore, Pelican Bay, The Moorings, Naples Beach, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, Sanibel Island, Captiva, Fort Myers, Sarasota, and Southwest Florida. We have office locations in Naples, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, and Sarasota.

Personal Lines Rising Prices The Potential Impact on Loss of Use Coverage 2

Loss of use coverage helps provide the peace of mind and financial assistance you need in the event you are suddenly displaced from your home. It’s sometimes referred to as Coverage D within your homeowners insurance policy that reimburses you for basic living expenses if a covered peril — such as burst water pipes, hurricane damage, or a house fire — damages or destroys your home, causing it to become uninhabitable.

Loss of use coverage reimbursement is unique to every person, family, and their situation. How much additional living expenses coverage you have is often based on limits in other parts of your policy. The loss of use coverage amount on a homeowner’s policy usually defaults to a percentage of your dwelling coverage limit, such as 20%. However, if additional expenses exceed that number, you become responsible for paying any amount that goes over the maximum.

Recently, rising costs have impacted Americans in a number of ways as inflation surges at the fastest rate in nearly 40 years. Prices are up in Florida for just about everything: housing, gas, groceries, and home repairs. Across the country, there has been a continued shortage in building materials from appliances to shingles, which has led to more expensive repairs and longer delivery times. The shortages in not only materials, but also labor have increased prices and caused lengthy project delays, so be prepared for it to take longer to get a job done. This trend is expected to continue into 2022.

With these high demands, supply shortages, and delays making home repairs more complicated and pricier, the best thing you can do is plan appropriately for the rising costs and potential delays you may experience. It is important to talk with your insurance advisor to ensure you are adequately covered, particularly considering the uncertainty around future costs for loss-of-use expenses. It is possible to increase this limit of coverage. Simply ask your trusted insurance advisor agent to provide a quote for additional coverage. The team at Gulfshore Insurance is here to assist and answer any questions you may have.

Gulfshore Insurance is a Naples, Florida based insurance agency specializing in home and homeowners insurance, car and auto insurance, boat and yacht insurance, property insurance, umbrella insurance, valuables insurance for fine art, jewelry, wine, and more. Navigating insurance requires an experienced and trusted insurance agent who understands your high net worth risks and exposures. Gulfshore Insurance services Naples, North Naples, Port Royal, Park Shore, Pelican Bay, The Moorings, Naples Beach, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, Sanibel Island, Captiva, Fort Myers, Sarasota, and Southwest Florida. We have office locations in Naples, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, and Sarasota.

Personal Lines Insuring Waterfront PropertyWhen your buyers are considering the purchase of coastal property in Southwest Florida, there are several insurance factors they need to understand. For example, if they are securing a mortgage, they will need wind and flood coverage for the closing, in addition to the standard home policy. And even without a mortgage, these coverages are highly recommended for properties that have direct ocean access.

Here are a few items to discuss with your buyers if they have insurance-related questions or concerns.

Wind Coverage
In many cases, wind coverage can be included on the home insurance policy. However, for a home with direct ocean access most insurance companies will require that every exterior opening (i.e., windows, entry doors, garage doors, and skylights) have Miami-Dade Code hurricane protection. This can be verified by purchasing a Wind Mitigation Inspection. For buyers interested in coverage from the top-rated High Net Worth companies (i.e., AIG, Berkley One, Chubb, Cincinnati, PURE, and Vault), newer Florida Building Code compliant roofs will also be required. An offer from these companies is often contingent upon writing a package account for each client (i.e., out-of-state residences, automobiles, jewelry, and personal umbrella).

Flood Coverage
Properties with direct ocean access are located in VE or AE flood zones. In these high-risk zones, an Elevation Certificate is recommended for quoting and issuing a flood policy. The certificate provides the base flood elevation as determined by FEMA in addition to the elevations of the garage, machinery, and first-floor living level. Some homes in these areas have elevated living levels which adds to the complexity of the underwriting process. For all areas below the base flood elevation, it’s necessary to confirm whether or not the enclosure is properly vented (in AE zones) or has breakaway walls (in VE zones). For a new home purchase, it is beneficial to obtain a copy of the sellers flood policy along with various other Risk Rating 2.0 rating factors which affect pricing (i.e., distance to the Gulf, bays, rivers, etc.).

When your buyers have questions about insuring their coastal property, turn to Gulfshore Insurance for answers. We’ve been managing business and personal risk since 1970, and we want to be the 1st choice when you—or your buyers—need insurance advice.

Gulfshore Insurance is a Naples, Florida based insurance agency specializing in home and homeowners insurance, car and auto insurance, boat and yacht insurance, property insurance, umbrella insurance, valuables insurance for fine art, jewelry, wine, and more. Navigating insurance requires an experienced and trusted insurance agent who understands your high net worth risks and exposures. Gulfshore Insurance services Naples, North Naples, Port Royal, Park Shore, Pelican Bay, The Moorings, Naples Beach, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, Sanibel Island, Captiva, Fort Myers, Sarasota, and Southwest Florida. We have office locations in Naples, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, and Sarasota.

Personal Lines Realtor Insight Addressing Hurricane Season Insurance ConcernsHurricane Season can be a time of turmoil for property owners and real estate professionals alike. The short-term effects of a hurricane can occur both before and after a storm.

Before a Hurricane
Between June 1st and November 30th, Florida enters Hurricane Season, and real estate professionals should be aware of possible restrictions regarding securing insurance for a home purchase. If there is a named storm (typically a Tropical Storm, Hurricane Watch, or Warning) that develops and is threatening our area, most insurers will temporarily close for new policies until the threat passes.  In other words, a buyer won’t be able to obtain insurance. This has the potential to impact a home’s closing. If the buyer is financing the home purchase, their lender typically won’t grant a loan commitment without homeowner’s insurance. To prevent this, it is critical to advise buyers to look into securing their insurance as soon as possible, and before the closing date. Buyers should contact their insurance agent and purchase a policy as early as possible during Hurricane Season.

In addition, standard homeowners’ policies typically exclude the peril of flood. All properties are located in a flood zone.  Realtors should advise buyers to seek guidance from a local insurance advisor to perform a flood zone determination and confirm if the property is located within a Special Flood Hazard Area.  Recently, there have been numerous legislative and rate changes for flood policies by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Most recently, FEMA has updated the NFIP’s pricing methodology to communicate flood risk more clearly so policyholders can make more informed decisions on the purchase of adequate insurance and on mitigation actions to protect against the perils of flooding. The 21st century rating system, Risk Rating 2.0—Equity in Action, provides actuarially sound rates that are equitable and easy to understand. It transforms a pricing methodology that has not been updated in 50 years by leveraging improved technology and FEMA’s enhanced understanding of flood risk. FEMA is taking a phased approach to rolling out the new rates:

  • Phase I: New policies beginning Oct. 1, 2021 will be subject to the new rating methodology. Also beginning Oct. 1, existing policyholders eligible for renewal will be able to take advantage of immediate decreases in their premiums.
  • Phase II: All remaining policies renewing on or after April 1, 2022 will be subject to the new rating methodology.

 

Even policy information from the seller for the property may not always be reliable due to flood zone changes and rating errors. It is best to consult an experienced Florida insurance professional at the very start of the due diligence process with any property, to get an accurate flood insurance quote and explanation of flood zones.

After a Hurricane
Insurance carriers carefully review properties for prior losses and open claims and will inspect homes after a new policy is placed, as well as, spot-check the home over the life of the policy. In most cases, homes with existing damage are uninsurable if repairs are not made prior to the home closing or in a timely manner following the closing. All insurance carriers will require photos of the affected damaged areas, contractor receipts, and any applicable permits to show that the repairs have been completed.  It is not uncommon for insurance carriers to cancel coverage if issues are discovered that were not disclosed on the application. It is important to understand that overall, it is very challenging to bind a new policy for a home that has an open hurricane claim.

Following a catastrophic hurricane or other natural disaster, insurance companies may struggle to keep up with higher-than-expected losses, and subsequently, homeowners may see increases in rates. Average home insurance rates have risen in every state in the last decade, mainly due to natural disasters, and Florida’s average rate is the highest in the nation. Florida tends to have most of its damage caused by hurricanes, such as Hurricane Irma, which hit the state in September 2017 and caused $11.1 billion worth of damage, with the vast majority of that to homes.

No area in the country, or arguably the world, has a stretch of coastline as expansive and hurricane-prone as Florida. This susceptibility to hurricanes puts homeowners and insurance companies in a risky situation. Real estate professionals should always advise homeowners to seek the advice of a local insurance agent on coverages needed. Just as insurance companies have different contracts by state, the contracts can also vary greatly within a state. A local agent will be able to help navigate through these differences and identify the bigger gaps in coverage/contracts.

Gulfshore Insurance is a Naples, Florida based insurance agency specializing in home and homeowners insurance, car and auto insurance, boat and yacht insurance, property insurance, umbrella insurance, valuables insurance for fine art, jewelry, wine, and more. Navigating insurance requires an experienced and trusted insurance agent who understands your high net worth risks and exposures. Gulfshore Insurance services Naples, North Naples, Port Royal, Park Shore, Pelican Bay, The Moorings, Naples Beach, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, Sanibel Island, Captiva, Fort Myers, Sarasota, and Southwest Florida. We have office locations in Naples, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, and Sarasota.

Commercial Lines Florida Legislature Passes Property Insurance Bill to Improve AffordabilityProperty insurance rates are on the rise with insurers reporting $1.6 billion in losses last year. And one of the biggest drivers of rate increases is the extraordinary number of roofing claims in Florida. Florida lawmakers are hoping legislation passed recently will help lessen the blow, but even with the proposed changes, rates may likely keep increasing in the short term.

The recently passed legislation clarifies insurance coverage related to roof damage and replacement; creates a uniform period for filing a claim; requires the insured to notify the insurer before filing a lawsuit; and changes how attorney fees are handled in litigation.

The bill allows insurers to offer homeowners policies that adjust roof claims to actual cash value if the roof is older than 10 years and allows property insurers to offer homeowners the option of purchasing a stated value limit for roof coverage. It also creates a uniform two-year period for filing a property claim, supplemental claim, or reopened claim, versus the current three-year statute of limitations in Florida.

Under the bill, insurers must be notified of claims in detail and given sufficient time to inspect properties before lawsuits are filed.

The bill also changes how insurers are obliged to cover insured’s attorney fees. Whereas currently insurers must pay a fee even if the insured only recovers a small amount, the new legislation means insurers’ obligations will be directly related to how successful the claim was and sets out a “strong presumption” that fee awards should be limited to a reasonable lodestar fee structure.

The legislation is now awaiting the governor’s signature, and we will continue to keep you updated. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this information, please contact us. We are here to assist you and happy to answer any questions you have.

Gulfshore Insurance is a Naples, Florida based insurance agency specializing in liability insurance, property insurance, workers compensation insurance, vehicle insurance, business income interruption insurance, cyber insurance, commercial umbrella insurance, home and homeowners insurance, car and auto insurance, boat and yacht insurance, property insurance, umbrella insurance, valuables insurance for fine art, jewelry, wine, and more. Navigating insurance requires an experienced and trusted insurance agent who understands your business risks and exposures. Gulfshore Insurance services Naples, North Naples, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Lido Beach, Longboat Key, Bradenton Beach, and Southwest Florida. We have office locations in Naples, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, and Sarasota.