MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — State lawmakers this week will decide during a special session how to chip away at the state’s property insurance crisis.
They will vote on a number of measures to try to slow rate hikes and encourage insurance providers to remain in the state.
Lawmakers are divided on the best path forward to give customers the most relief.
“It’s one of the main issues we’re hearing — left and right,” state Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-Palm City, said.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Priced Out of Paradise
“I question whether we in Florida alone can really even fix this problem because it’s such a huge problem,” state Sen. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, said.
The state’s insurance crisis includes rates going up on average by more than 30%. Insurance companies have left the Florida market or offered limited policies.
“There are so few insurers willing to write property insurance in the state of Florida right now,” Berman said.
That’s led to the state’s so-called insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, gaining hundreds of thousands of policies, growing from about 750,000 policies to about 1.2 million.
“The whole state is at risk when we have so many policies under Citizens,” Berman said.
RELATED: Florida residents hope special session can alleviate rising home insurance costs
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate will consider bills that, in part, would require Citizens’ policyholders to take private insurance if they’re offered a rate within 20% of Citizens’ rate.
The bills would also add measures to keep insurers in the state, like committing $1 billion to a reinsurance fund.
“If there is a major disaster, then those insurance companies have the funds to pay out that claim,” Overdorf said.
He also supports more protections for insurance companies from so-called frivolous lawsuits.
The bill, Overdorf explained, would no longer require insurance companies to pay attorney’s fees for cases that customers lose.
“Before, you’d have the Wild West and [the idea that] the insurance company is going to pay for it so it’s no big deal,” Overdorf said.
State Sen. Tina Polsky opposes the change to insurance-related litigation.
“For the insurance companies that pay up, they’re not seeing insurance rise,” Polsky said. “If they’re taking away attorney’s fees, how is anyone supposed to pay for an attorney? If they get full payment after working with an attorney because the insurance company wouldn’t do it on their own, they have to pay the attorney out of the payment. That’s supposed to be their reimbursement.”
RELATED: Florida Senate president warns insurers ‘there will be hell to pay’ if rates don’t drop
Berman and Polsky said they are not confident the bill will bring any speedy relief to customers.
“I’m not really convinced it’s helping lower the cost for homeowners, which is really the goal this session,” Berman said.
“I hate to say it, but it certainly isn’t going to give immediate relief,” Polsky said. “The question is whether there might be relief down the line.”
“You may not see it next week, but you will likely see it first quarter, second quarter and before hurricane season next year,” Overdorf said. “We would not be here before Christmas in a special session if we didn’t think it was going to do anything.”
Both sides do agree on a couple of things in the bill, such as requiring Citizens’ customers to obtain flood insurance. The bill would also require insurance companies to respond faster to claims.
Clinton Mora is a reporter for Trending Insurance News. He has previously worked for the Forbes. As a contributor to Trending Insurance News, Clinton covers emerging a wide range of property and casualty insurance related stories.