We have written previously about House Bill 909 and how it will limit the ability of Florida Homeowner’s to mitigate damages and assign contractual rights. There has been little if no media coverage on this matter and we felt compelled to shed some more light on the subject. We would like to encourage media outlets to look into this subject more closely. This is an issue that profoundly affects Florida homeowner’s insurance claims. Florida homeowner’s insurance is a complex and delicate issue in Florida due to the frequency of damage causing events in this State.
More worrisome is the fact that HB 909 passed the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee thirteen (13) votes to zero (0). You can see the votes below:
Y Broxson Y Hager Y Lee Y Rader Y Taylor Y Caldwell Y Ingram Y Moraitis Y Santiago Y Tobia Y Goodson Y Jones, S. Y Nelson
Total Yeas: 13
Total Nays: 0
Total Missed: 0
Total Votes: 13
It only took two (2) hours for this bill to get through the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. Also, it should be noted that all members were present and voted in favor of the bill. Furthermore, Subcommittee offered a substitute version of the bill that is deeply worrisome to both Florida homeowners and public adjusters. The new language seeks to cap public adjuster’s fees at 15% for non-emergency claims. HB 909 also includes a plethora of language that seems to be designed to circumvent public adjusters, for example;
1) The public adjuster must ensure that PROMPT notice is given to the insurer, the public adjuster’s contract is provided to the insurer, the property is available for inspection of the loss or damage by the insurer, and the insurer is given the opportunity to interview the insured directly about the loss of the claim. The insurer must be allowed to obtain necessary information to investigate and respond to the claim.
2) The insurer may not exclude the public adjuster from its in-person meeting with the insured. The insurer shall meet or communicate with the public adjuster in an effort to reach agreement as to the scope of the covered loss under the insurance policy.
3) A public adjuster may not restrict or prevent an insurer, company employee adjuster, independent adjuster, attorney, investigator, or other person acting on behalf of the insurer from having reasonable access at reasonable times to any insured or claimant or to the insured property that is the subject of the claim.
4) The public adjuster representing the insureds may be present for the insurer’s inspection, but if the unavailability of the public adjuster otherwise delays the insurer’s timely inspection of the property, the public adjuster or the insureds must allow the insurer to have access to the property without the participation or presence of the pubic adjuster or insureds in order to facilitate the insurer’s prompt inspection of the loss or damage.
As South Florida insurance attorneys we are well aware of the dangers the above language holds. It should be noted that these lawmakers are proposing that these provisions take effect on July 1, 2013. It is amazing how efficiently the legislature can move when they put their minds to it. In effect, the above language will almost render an Adjuster’s services useless. The adjuster is there to protect insurer and present a claim to insurer. The adjuster cannot present a proper claim to insurer if he is to be disregarded and circumvented as the above language proposes. The insurer already has access to the insured through a recorded statement and also an Examination Under Oath (EUO). Any more access to the insured seems unnecessary and clearly excessive.
This bill also intends to prohibit post loss assignment of benefits under the policy. As mentioned in a previous blog this will force Homeowner’s to pay repair bills out of pocket first and then be reimbursed later by the insurer. The problem here is that many homeowners buy insurance so they don’t have to incur out of pocket expenses. Further, many of these repairs may be expensive and out of reach for common policyholders. This may have a counterproductive effect by producing more damage than necessary. Many homeowners will not have the financial capacity to properly contain a loss from getting worse.
HB 909 deserves much more attention and analysis. Links provided here can help others analyze and comment on HB 909. It should be noted that the legislature intends to pass this bill quickly given the time frame in which they want it to take effect (July 1, 2013). This gives opposing voices, homeowners, adjusters, and other interested parties little chance to comment and allow for dialogue on the matter.