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Florida lawmakers will address rising property insurance costs during a special session

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The Florida Legislature will take up rising property insurance during a special session that starts Monday.

High premiums, on top of what already is an affordability crisis across the state, continues to drive up the cost of living and make homeownership more expensive and difficult to achieve.

State Rep. John Snyder is a Republican representing parts of Martin and Palm Beach counties. He spoke about insurance and the upcoming session Friday with Tom Hudson on The Florida Roundup.

He said he wants to continue to hold insurance companies accountable without placing too many regulations and drive carriers out.

“We need to create the regulatory environment where companies are coming in to compete for the business of property insurance, and giving consumers options to choose from,” Snyder said.

This isn’t the first time state lawmakers have tried to address the issue. During a special session last December, the legislature passed a property insurance bill cutting back on fraud and litigation. Republicans said the changes would lead to lower rates.

“Where the analysts agree is that the primary driver to the cost of property insurance for the everyday Floridian, myself included, has been decades of really what folks have called Florida being a judicial hellhole, where one-way attorney fees have really driven the cost of what should be a 20, 30, $40,000 repair into a quarter-million dollar claim when you tack on all these attorney fees,” Snyder said.

Despite the reforms, Florida’s insurance market remains volatile, with the cost of homeowners’ insurance far above the national average. Industry experts say they can’t predict when consumers will see better prices.

Snyder himself has experience with the crisis. He said he received a cancellation notice from his current carrier around March, saying they didn’t want to renew his policy.

“By engaging with my insurance agent, we were able to successfully shop and get equal coverage without an increase in my premium,” Snyder said.

Climate change has also played a role in rising premiums, with Hurricane Idalia this year estimated to cost up to $20 billion in damage.

“You know, Florida is only responsible, even though we are a hurricane state, we’re only responsible for about 20% of the actual claims for property damage. But we’re responsible for over 80% of the litigation,” Snyder said, also pointing to insurance scams taking advantage of people affected by storms.

As the legislature convenes, at the forefront is extra funding for the My Safe Florida Home Program, which allows homeowners to apply for grants to strengthen their properties. More than 17,000 Floridians remain on a waiting list for support after the program used up most of its money.

“As we head into next week’s special session, we are going to fund the program to clear the waiting list. And so those folks will begin seeing those dollars very soon,” Snyder said. “As we head into the regular session, I’m sure we’ll dive into the specifics to, again, reallocate the funds.”

Proposals released Thursday would provide about $416 million to the program and to Hurricane Idalia relief efforts.

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