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Guest Column
Transparency is key to solving our property insurance crisis | Column
We need to immediately stabilize the insurance market and to put consumers at the top of our priority list.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, bangs his gavel Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Legislators are in Tallahassee to work on property insurance reform. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, bangs his gavel Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Legislators are in Tallahassee to work on property insurance reform. (AP Photo/Phil Sears) [ PHIL SEARS | AP ]
Published May 25

Let me state the obvious: Florida’s property insurance market is in a state of crisis and too many families are getting stuck with the bill.

Right now, seven property insurance companies in our state are in liquidation, while others are withdrawing from the Florida market or seriously considering it. The companies that aren’t closing up shop are taking extreme defensive measures, canceling policies, limiting essential coverages and raising rates on the hard working people of the Sunshine State. The impact of this is that many Floridians are seeing property insurance bills nearly double or triple what they were paying just two years ago. And for some, it means that they may lose insurance all together because they can’t afford it. A recent report estimated almost 70,000 Floridians may lose coverage at the end of June.

As state senator for District 18, I was proud to join some of my peers in the Legislature in calling for a special session to ensure affordable and stable insurance coverage for homeowners. As we meet this week, our elected officials need to be transparent about what is causing so many people to suffer from rising costs.

Janet Cruz
Janet Cruz [ Provided ]

One of the major problems we’ve seen is a groundswell of unscrupulous roofing contractors who roll into neighborhoods and promise customers unnecessary “free roofs” on roofs that really need to be replaced due to wear-and-tear. Then they file fraudulently inflated claims on the customer’s behalf with their insurance company. This practice is driving up costs for everyone and we’ve seen many examples of customers being left high and dry because bad roofing contractors take the insurance money and run. Everyone’s rates are going up as a result.

Just last year, legislation was proposed to protect consumers from roofing fraud and discourage bad actors that drive up rates. Unfortunately, the bills both stalled in the Senate. As we meet during the special session, I will work to make sure we take this fraudulent activity head on and introduce new penalties for contractors engaging in this practice.

We also need to increase access to the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund so insurance carriers are not forced to purchase expensive reinsurance from foreign entities. Right now, these costs are just being passed down to Florida homeowners, driving up rates across the state. Politicians in both parties need to wake up, because families are paying too much.

I won’t back down from fighting for the people of Hillsborough County and Tampa Bay to find protections for consumers and penalties for insurance companies trying to take advantage of people. We need to immediately stabilize the insurance market and we need to put consumers at the top of our priority list. Any solutions that are brought forward should put reducing consumer costs first and foremost.

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The people of Florida deserve transparency. This crisis was not created overnight; unfortunately property insurance rates are not going to go down overnight and our problems are not going to be solved after one special session. We are in the midst of a beyond overdue conversation. The good news is that there are some immediate steps we can take to mitigate this crisis.

Now, we need leadership to step up and a Legislature that’s willing to focus on the increasingly high cost of living in this state. Our solutions lie in working across the aisle and putting the people of Florida first. As we meet this week for special session, I am hopeful that we can do just that.

State Sen. Janet Cruz is a Tampa Democrat.

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