Florida Passes Homeowners’ Claims Bill of Rights
The Florida Senate Appropriations Committee passed legislation creating a Homeowners’ Claims Bill of Rights. The bill will notify Florida homeowners of their rights and responsibilities when filing an insurance claim and with 350,000 homeowners filing claims each year, and a large chuck of these filing complaints or searching for answers concerning their claims, it’s important that consumers aren’t left in the dark. The bill lets policyholders know what they need to do if they have property damage and will inform homeowners regarding timelines: Insurance companies must acknowledge a claim within 14 days of being filed, insurers must confirm if a claim is covered, partially covered or denied within 30 days of receiving a proof-of-loss statement, and insurers must either pay the claim in full or in part, or deny the claim within 90 days.
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Water was a huge proponent of the bill, which was initially drafted by Florida’s insurance consumer advocate’s office. On the other hand, some participants of the bill are not happy with the result, complaining that it included no new legal rights for homeowners or insurers.
With hopes that the bill will lend greater transparency to the homeowner claims process, enhance transparency, and improve standards, it will be interesting to see how controversy over the bill plays out, especially concerning an assignment of benefits provision and the notion that the lawmakers codified the current law and avoided the more controversial issues like the practice of policyholders assigning claims payments to contractors.
Under the assignment of benefits, homeowners can sign over financial rights to be paid for a claim so that they are made directly to the contractor making repairs instead of going to the homeowner. With this assignment of benefits, the contractor assumes the policyholder’s legal right to dispute claims and file suits against insurers, and if they prevail in court, the insurer must pay the claim and the contractor’s legal bills.
From the point of view of insurers, this has created an environment for trial lawyers and contractors to maximize the payment they can receive from insurers regardless of the claim’s real cost. Contractors will tell homeowners that they must sign a form giving away their rights in order to receive repairs, and then the vendor inflates the cost of the claim and tells the insurer that they owe them X amount or that they will sue them. In this situation, consumers are kept in the dark and some have had lawsuits filed on their behalf without their knowledge.
Disagreement over the assignment of benefits provision almost undermined the whole bill, leading lawmakers to approve a bill that did not actually make too many changes to the law. For more information on how the Homeowners’ Claims Bill of Rights affects you, call us at 305-648-7070 or visit us online.