JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — New laws are set to take effect on Jan.1, including the latest effort to fix Florida’s broken property insurance market.
But the consensus is the new law won’t lower your rates in the short term.
The reforms in the law aren’t retroactive.
So, they’ll start taking hold and making an impact with new policies written after the New Year.
Still, insurance insiders call the reforms historic and argue they’ll pull the industry out of a nosedive.
Former state Sen. Jeff Brandes worked on property insurance for years in the Florida Legislature, up until he termed out last month.
“I would argue that the first special session was like fighting a five-alarm fire with a garden hose, whereas the second special session we called the units in,” said Brandes.
Brandes, who now heads the Florida Policy Project, asserts important reforms were included in the legislature’s second crack at fixing the collapsing property insurance market this year.
Those reforms include banning assignment of benefits for new policies, doing away with one-way attorney’s fees in claims disputes and reducing the number of years policyholders can file claims from two to just one year.
All those changes aim to reduce costly litigation for insurers.
“Unfortunately, sometimes in the legislative process it takes a crisis for them to do the right thing and frankly, the thing that had to be done four years ago,” said Brandes.
But Florida Democrats like state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, don’t see the new law as a win for consumers.
“It’s sad to see that the ultimate reform package that passed prioritizes big insurance companies over everyday Floridians,” said Eskamani.
Eskamani argued the law will raise rates on policyholders using the state’s insurer of last resort, Citizens.
She also believes the litigation reforms will make it more difficult for homeowners to challenge bad-faith payouts.
“Not only is there no guarantee that your rates are going to go down, but it actually makes it harder to force insurance companies to do what’s right and to pay their claim, which often times requires going to court,” said Eskamani.
But Brandes said while the legislation will take time to help out insurers already in the state, it provides hope for the future.
“I do hope you’re going to see new market entrants come into this marketplace, who don’t have those legacy costs, begin to take policies out of Citizens and grow their business, provide more competition in the marketplace at a reduced price for Florida’s homeowners,” said Brandes.
There’s also $1 billion in the law providing reinsurance for insurance companies to keep them afloat in the short term.
[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]
Taxpayers already fronted $2 billion for that same purpose in the May special session on property insurance.