What’s on tap for property insurance in Florida’s upcoming legislative session
Bills pose condo windstorm pilot program, expand eligibility
The Florida Legislature’s upcoming session could include a vote on bills tied to property insurance, including one that would make it less expensive for condominium associations to obtain coverage.
Lawmakers aren’t expected to pass any sweeping changes, a year after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed major insurance reform into law that was meant to entice insurers to expand in the state.
But the issue is top of mind as the cost of insurance, which has been on the rise for years, has skyrocketed more recently across commercial and residential real estate. It’s become more challenging to secure coverage for many following the deadly Surfside condo collapse in 2021.
Premiums have tripled for some, including condo associations for older communities. Some association boards have had to pass special assessments just to pay for insurance.
“We’re starting to hear some pretty severe horror stories about special assessments,” said Beth Vecchioli, a lobbyist and attorney at Holland & Knight. Some relief is expected, as Vecchioli said the governor has “taken a lot of heat for the property insurance crisis.” DeSantis is among the half dozen Republicans running for president.
Florida’s next legislative session begins Jan. 9 and is expected to end March 8.
House Bill 655 and Senate Bill 802 would create a condo windstorm pilot program that would provide coverage for condo associations — based on the actual cash value of the roof as opposed to the replacement cost. The latter is more expensive but provides more coverage.
The bills were introduced by Rep. Hillary Cassel, a Democrat representing part of Broward County, and Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, a Republican representing parts of Monroe and Miami-Dade counties.
House Bill 625 and sister bills 604 in the Senate and 565 in the House would expand eligibility for insurance coverage under the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance. Vecchioli said “eligibility requirements are very tight right now.”
Citizens, long considered the insurer of last resort, is the largest insurer of Florida.
HB 565 would require rate cap increases for coverage of residential structures in specific counties, likely Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, and it would not require homeowners to purchase flood insurance as a condition.
The legislation, passed in December 2022, makes it harder for homeowners to sue insurance companies. The majority of all homeowners insurance lawsuits in the U.S. filed over claims are out of Florida, but the state accounted for less than 10 percent of claims that insurers paid out. The law also eliminates insurers having to pay one-way attorneys’ fees and assignment-of-benefits contracts under property insurance policies.