Make us your home page

House passes sweeping property insurance bill

TALLAHASSEE — Plans to increase the rates of state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. by up to 25 percent are dead in the Legislature this year.

But proposals are still moving forward in the private insurance market, most notably for sinkhole insurance.

The House on Wednesday passed a sweeping bill intended to rein in frivolous and fraudulent sinkhole claims that insurers say are draining their coffers and driving up rates for all policy holders.

Among other things, the bill would require insurance companies to only cover structural damage for primary buildings. The bill also strictly defines structural damage to minimize what have been characterized as frivolous claims for such things as hairline cracks in driveways. And it reduces the window for filing hurricane and windstorm claims from five years to three years after a storm.

Supporters say the changes will lure insurers to Florida, increase competition and lower rates.

"The state of the property insurance market in Florida is of great concern to many of us in this room. The question we're faced with is how do we fix this market," said Rep. John Wood, R-Haines City. "This is a first step."

Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, who sponsored one of the failed Citizens reform bills, lamented during debate that those proposals didn't move forward. Citizens officials have warned that the premiums they charge their 1.3 million policyholders aren't high enough to cover all potential losses if a massive storm hits the state. In that case, taxpayers would have to pick up the tab.

"Let's not lose sight of the looming, potentially crippling liability hanging over our heads as Floridians," Boyd said, noting that the bill before lawmakers may not be perfect, but it is a good start.

Opponents of the measure say it's anticonsumer and a gift to the insurance industry.

"If this bill passes, a victim of a tragedy or loss will have less rights and less opportunity to recover for their damages," said Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg. "You better hope that the only thing falls into the hole in the ground is your home." If your garage, swimming pool or outdoor kitchen is destroyed by a sinkhole, he said, "You're out of luck."

Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, said it would result in increased rates.

Supporters of the measure, he said, are "going to tell you big insurance is losing money hand over fist in this state, but at the end of the day we have no way of really actually knowing."

The House voted 85-33 in favor of SB 408, which was amended Wednesday to replace language approved by the Senate last week with the House version. It now goes back to the Senate for a vote.

The Senate bill was much more extreme, freeing private insurers from having to offer comprehensive sinkhole coverage at all. Instead, they would have to offer coverage only for "catastrophic groundcover collapse," which represents about 1 percent of sinkhole claims. People who need comprehensive coverage would have to get it from Citizens.

Janet Zink can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

House passes sweeping property insurance bill 05/04/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 10:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. As Dow hits new high, Raymond James Financial reports record financial gains


    On the same day that the Dow closed at new highs, investment firm Raymond James Financial reported record revenues and earnings for its fiscal third quarter that ended June 30.

    Raymond James Financial CEO Paul Reilly unveiled record quarterly revenues and earnings for the St. Petersburg-based investment firm. [Courtesy of Raymond James Financial]
  2. Florida GDP growth in first quarter 2017 ranks 21st among states, still outpacing U.S.

    Economic Development

    Florida's gross domestic product or GDP rose 1.4 percent in the first quarter, slightly faster than the nation's growth of 1.2 percent and placing Florida 21st among the states for growth rates, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

    Not too hot. Not too cold.

    These Jackson Square Townhomes began hitting the west Hillsborough County market late last year and continued to be sold into the first quarter of 2017. The real estate sector was the biggest driver of Florida's gross domestic product, which rose 1.4 percent in the first quartrer of 2017.  [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  3. A new app will help you find your favorite Tampa Bay food trucks

    Food & Dining

    What's new: Food tech

    Local food businesses are embracing new technologies and partnerships to bring us extra deliciousness.

    Michael Blasco of Tampa Bay Food Trucks says that everyone always asked about an app to help find their favorite food trucks. There is, available for iPhones and Droids.
  4. Another Pinellas foreclosure auction fools bidders, raises questions

    Real Estate

    For the second time in six weeks, a company connected to lawyer Roy C. Skelton stood poised to profit from a Pinellas County foreclosure auction that confused even experienced real estate investors.

    A Palm Harbor company bid  $112,300 for  this Largo townhome at a foreclosure auction July 21 not realizing the auction involved a second mortgage, connected to lawyer and  real estate investor Roy Skelton -- and that the bank could still foreclose on the  first mortgage.
  5. Clearwater-based USAmeriBank acquired by New Jersey bank in $816 million deal


    CLEARWATER — USAmeriBancorp, Inc., based in Clearwater, is being acquired by New Jersey's Valley National Bancorp in an $816 million deal, it was announced today.

    Joe Chillura, CEO of USAmeribank, shown inside a branch in Ybor City in this file photo.