CLAIMS BILL OF RIGHTS AND ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS CONTINUES TO MOVE This legislation, HB 743 by Representative Hood, and SB 708 by Bean require insurers to provide a “claims bill of rights” to consumers that file homeowners’ claims.  We have worked extensively to make the notices track existing law provisions throughout the insurance code, and inserted language clarifying that this notice does not create new law or a new cause of action in the courts.  The bill contains numerous requirements for contractors accepting an assignment of benefits.  The goal of getting the AOB language out of the bill has been realized, as passage of weak AOB requirements could weaken progress insurers may make in the courts by codifying clearly that AOB’s are permissible. The bill is moving, and was adopted by the full Senate this past week, and will likely be adopted by the House this week. FLOOD INSURANCESB 542 by Brandes, and HB 879 by Hooper create private incentives for insurers to write Flood insurance in Florida.  The House offered a strike all to the bill and enacted it after significant debate on Friday afternoon.  It will be heard again by the House on third reading today and sent back to the Senate, where I anticipate it should be adopted and sent to the Governor, although anything could happen. The bill contains language de-regulating rates for private flood insurance for the next few years, which can be offered in a stand-alone policy, or as a coverage or endorsement to a homeowner’s policy.  Insurers would also have the option of filing their rates for approval.  The legislation allows insurers limited flexibility to design their forms and coverage’s.  The House bill allows insurers to write only four types of flood insurance, standard, preferred, custom and supplemental.  The standard policy will track coverage’s under the existing Federal flood program, and uses the current definition.  Under the house bill, the preferred plan provides additional coverage by expanding the definition of “flood”, adding additional living expenses, and mandating replacement cost for personal property, instead of ACV.  The expanded definition of Flood includes water intrusion originating outside a structure that are not considered a flood loss under a standard flood policy issued by the NFIP.  “Custom policies” must include the standard coverage at a minimum, but allow insurers to be creative.  “Supplemental policies” authorizes a wrap policy product that is sold in conjunction with someone that has existing flood coverage from the NFIP or a voluntary insurer. Agents must notify consumers being removed from the NFIP that if the consumer later wants to re-enter the NFIP, a full risk rate for flood insurance may by charged by NFIP.  Both bills encourage surplus lines insurers to offer flood by eliminating the three declinations from other insurers when placing flood coverage, but the house bill only allows that if the rate is at least 10 percent less  that the flood premiums charged by an admitted Florida insurer. Insurers must notify the OIR 30 days before they begin to write flood insurance, and file a plan of operation and financial pro forma with the OIR. At this point, the House is strongly against allowing policyholders to only purchase enough coverage to cover their mortgage, and passed SB 542 on Friday on special order without this “mortgage only” language. Interestingly, the OIR believes that the bill may have de-regulated form filings, but the requirement to file a plan with the OIR will likely be used to require form filing and approval.   This will be an interesting issue if adopted in its current form.
CITIZENS’ SINKHOLE REPAIR LEGISLATION STALLEDHB 129 passed the full House. This bill makes changes to how Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (“Citizens”) insures and pays claims for sinkholes.  The bill requires Citizens to offer deductible amounts of 2%, 5% and 10% of the policy dwelling limits for sinkhole loss coverage.  Current law allows property insurers including Citizens to offer sinkhole deductibles in the above amounts, including a 1% deductible, but does not require an offer of these deductibles.  Citizens and most insurers only offer sinkhole policies with a 10% deductible.  The bill also establishes a Citizens Sinkhole Repair Program to be operational by March 31, 2015.  The program will utilize approved repair contractors to ensure sinkhole repairs are completed.  Participation in the program will be mandatory for Citizens’ insured’s.  The bill establishes criteria to be an approved contractor.  Each sinkhole loss claim is submitted to the approved stabilization contractors who can submit itemized offers to Citizens for the stabilization repairs contained in the engineering report.  Policyholders will get to choose from a list of qualified approved contractors.  If the repairs cannot be made within policy limits, then Citizens can pay up to the policy limits to the policyholder (and no repairs will be made).  Repairs must be warranted by the contractor for at least 5 years.  The policyholders’ sole remedy is specific performance. The bill does not appear to be moving in the Senate at this point. HOUSE CONSIDERING CITIZENS’ REFORM PACKAGES The House is considering two Citizens’ reform packages which do not exactly match the Senate packages at this time. The House is taking a more conservative approach to property reform at this juncture.  HB 1109 by Representative Wood contains only a couple of reforms:

Currently, bid protests for goods and services purchased by Citizens go before the Board.  This legislation creates the same process for Citizens that exists for state agencies, which allow bid protests to go before an administrative law judge at the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.  After receipt of a recommended order, the Board may overturn it for facts inconsistent in the record, or due to a disagreement with the law; thereafter appeals go directly to the First District Court of Appeals, the court directly below the Florida Supreme Court; and

Allows surplus lines insurers to participate in the Clearinghouse and make offers only on homes which receive no offer in the Clearinghouse from an admitted insurer.  The bill only includes surplus lines insurers that maintain surplus of $50 million, rated superior, excellent, exceptional or equally comparable financial strength by a rating agency acceptable to OIR, which purchase reinsurance covering their 100 year PML at least twice in a single season, and which obtains signed notices from the policyholder that an offer of coverage does not affect Citizens eligibility, and that surplus lines policies are not covered by FIGA or are not subject to rate review by the OIR, and other disclosures.  Policyholders are not made ineligible for coverage in Citizens by virtue of receiving an offer from a surplus lines insurer, and are re admitted to CPIC without underwriting for 36 months after being diverted.

It is unlikely that Representative Wood has the votes to advance the surplus lines portion of his bill. At this point, there will either be no bill or a significantly watered down version; this bill is paired with SB 1672 by Simmons which passed the Senate.

HB 1089 by Representative Raschein from Monroe County contains similar provisions to the Senate bills:

Provides exemptions for improvements to structures seaward of Coastal Control line in a county where 75% of policies are written by Citizens;

Any alternate study regarding wind mitigation discounts must be submitted as part of next Citizens’ rate filing; and

OIR may develop an addendum to the building code form for use in counties with stringent building codes.

HB 1089 passed the full House and has been transmitted to the Senate. FLORIDA INSURANCE GUARANTY ASSOCIATION ASSESSMENT LEGISLATION ADVANCESThis legislation requires new insurers with no prior year premium to make a good faith estimate and remit funds to the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (“FIGA”) upon the occurrence of an assessment;  requires all assessments to be made by all insurers beginning and ending on the same dates;  eliminates rate filings with the OIR;  requires a true up filing with FIGA; requires insurers that over collect to remit all such funds to FIGA, and those that under collect to maintain a credit to be used with FIGA on a future assessment; allows FIGA to waive the up-front payment and collect assessments on a monthly payment option if FIGA maintains at least 6 months cash-flow; and clarifies that advanced assessments grant insurers a statutory accounting asset for the full amount advanced. The legislation has been amended into HB 375 and is headed back to the House. MAXIMUM SPEED LIMIT INCREASE Senate Bill 392 passed the full Senate. This legislation raises the speed limit on access highways to 75 miles per hour and certain other highways to 70 miles per hour. Additionally, the Department of Transportation is authorized to set such maximum and minimum speed limits over other roadways under its authority as it deems safe, not to exceed a maximum of 65 miles per hour. MOTOR VEHICLE UNDERWRITING AND CANCELLATION PERIOD LEGISLATION ADVANCES The full Senate passed SB 490. This legislation increases the motor vehicle underwriting period to a 60-day period instead of a 30-day period for the non cancelable coverage required to reinstate driving privileges revoked or suspended for DUI or failure to maintain required security. This change will make the underwriting period for all motor vehicle insurance policies a uniform 60 days.

Please call L & S Insurance at 1-888-244-7400  for quotes on Home, Auto, Business & Commercial, Flood, and Life & Financial products as well.

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