Florida Legislature takes aim at rising home insurance rates

Abuses of laws intended to protect homeowners are hurting many in South Florida, experts say.

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Florida’s real estate market is facing sticker shock and we’re not just talking about property prices.

Homeowner insurance rates are going through the roof, led in large part by abuses in laws intended to protect homeowners.

Years after any storm has even come close to Florida, homeowners here and across the state are filing damage claims and getting entire new roofs seemingly “free” to them but at a major cost to all property owners in the Sunshine State.

“What’s happening right now, this is like the perfect storm right now,” said Mauricio Giraldo, with Horizons Insurance and Finance Services in Cooper City.

He said current law allows Florida homeowners to go back three years after a storm and make a claim of damage.

“So right now, they’re still getting claims from Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael,” Giraldo said.

And even if it’s just a small leak actually caused by an aging roof, attorneys and public adjusters are hitting up insurance companies for a brand new roof. In fact, data shows that 75 percent of roof claims in Florida involve an attorney.

“Insurance companies, they can write the losses but ultimately the ones paying for it are the consumer, of course,” Giraldo said.

Consumers like Carolina Hernandez, who has faithfully paid the insurance premium on her Weston home for over a decade and never made a claim, suddenly got dropped.

“And so for me, it’s been kind of a shock to know what did I do wrong and, in theory, I did nothing wrong,” Hernandez said.

Quotes for a new policy are coming in at three to four times what she was paying before.

As a real estate agent, Hernandez sees how that’s affecting the market.

“There are people right now that cannot close on a house because nobody’s writing them insurance,” she said.

A bill that recently passed the Florida Senate floor would, among other things, eliminate excessive attorney’s fees, change the reimbursement schedule for roofs depending on age and shorten the timing of a claim from three years to two.

Similar legislation is also going through a final committee hearing in the Florida House.

Experts say if something doesn’t change, Florida will quickly become a state that people cannot afford to live in.

“The poor people are the ones that suffer the most, unfortunately,” Giraldo said.

Drowning in losses, many insurance companies are now pulling out of Florida, forcing more people to turn to Citizens, the state-run insurer of last resort, which is funded by a fee added to every homeowner insurance policy.

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.