CS/SB 708 Text

Feb. 12 staff analysis

Insurance Consumer Advocate Steve Burgess and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater have a major property bill under consideration this session.
It includes a Bill of Rights for policyholders of residential property insurance and new restrictions on a post-loss assignment of benefits. It also includes a prohibition on post-claim underwriting and definitions of conflict of interest in the mediation, appraisal and neutral evaluator processes.

The legislation is SB 708 by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, and HB 759 by Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale.

ICA Burgess has worked with a large group of stakeholders, including the Florida Insurance Council,  FIC lobbyists Gary Guzzo and Robert Reyes noted in the Thursday Property & Casualty Issues Briefing. One concern was that the Bill of Rights would create a new cause of action. There is language in the bill stating clearly there is no cause of action, the lobbyists said.

The assignment of benefits restrictions can be the most significant property legislation of the session from insurers’ perspective. Burgess continues to consider recommendations on AOB as well as the overall bill.

The bill requires that a residential property insurance company must give to a policyholder a Claims Bill of Rights within 14 days of receiving any communication about a claim from the policyholder. The bill specifies the language that must be contained in the Bill of Rights (BoR).

The BoR alerts the policyholder that he or she has the right to:
•    Receive acknowledgement and the appropriate forms within 14 days;
•    Receive, within 30 days of submission of appropriate documents, the insurer’s statement that the claim will be paid in full, partially paid, or is being investigated;
•    Receive full settlement within 90 days, or payment of the undisputed portion, or a denial;
•    Free mediation in most circumstances;
•    Neutral evaluation for sinkhole claims;
Contact the Division of Consumer Services.

The bill provides that a post-loss assignment of benefits is valid only if the following enumerated requirements are met:
•    The assignee must notify the insurance company within 48 hours if contact information is available;
•    The assignment is limited to the contracted work to be performed on covered structures only;
•    The scope and price must be specified before the work is performed; the assignee is prohibited from charging the policyholder beyond the deductible;
•    Anyone doing work on behalf of the assignee is prohibited from charging the homeowner;
•    The assignee is prohibited from retaining proceeds beyond those given for the work performed by or on behalf of the assignee;
•    The work is guaranteed to conform to the most recent accepted industry standards.