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Bob Rommel considering attorney fees, cash value roofing policies for House insurance reform

Originally published by Florida Politics | View Story

By Jacob Ogles

An insurance reform bill temporarily postponed in the House will return to the Commerce Committee on Friday.

Rep. Bob Rommel, a Naples Republican and the bill’s sponsor, hopes by that point to bring it closer to Senate legislation already passed.

The big differences, addressing roofing policies and attorney fees, generated the mostdebate in the upper chamber. Still, Rommel sees reason to address the issues before putting the bill (HB 305) in front of a final House committee.

“All the stakeholders, including some plaintiffs’ attorneys, realize there are abusive practices,” Rommel said. “Some roofers realize there are abusive practices. And some insurance companies agree there could be more oversight.”

“What everybody agrees on is that rates shouldn’t be rising 25% a year.”

Rommel’s bill would narrow the time homeowners can file a property insurance claim after an event from three years to two. It also regulates the rate at which Citizens Property Insurance, Florida’s publicly administered insurer of last resort, can increase rates.

The Senate bill right now largely eliminates attorney fee multipliers. When Rommel’s bill had a committee substitute in the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, those provisions disappeared from the House version.

As he prepares to bring the bill to Commerce on Friday, he’s taking another look at that issue. He said since 2013, some $15 billion has been paid out in insurance claims in Florida, but 71% of that has gone to attorneys.

“If you want to correct the problem, you need to correct all those issues,” Rommel said.

He also likes that the Senate version of the bill allows for insurance policies that cover the cash value of a roof that needs to be replaced, while still allowing providers to sell policies with the full replacement costs.

“I would like to give consumers the option,” he said. “Options and competition are what drives down costs.”

He acknowledged fears many consumers will simply buy the cheapest insurance available and not realize until they are having a roof replaced that the full cost isn’t covered. But he said that’s an inevitable outcome in any kind of insurance.

Sen. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, said he’s spoken with Rommel about the bill, but, for now, is waiting to see what comes out of Rommel’s office before the committee meeting Friday.

“My hope is they will adopt something close to our version, as I firmly believe what we have passed will save consumers on their homeowners premiums while getting at the cost drivers,” Boyd said.

The Senator said the greatest challenge to address remains the inordinate amount of frivolous lawsuits. Nationwide, 8% of claims are from Florida while 76% of lawsuits are from Florida, he said.

“There is definitely something wrong with that picture,” Boyd added.

Rommel said he’s focused on outcomes. He’s concerned that Citizens is seeing policies grow by 5,000 a week.

“That will put all Floridians at risk if we had an Andrew type of event,” he said, referencing a 1992 hurricane that devastated South Florida.

Even winning committee approval on Friday leaves little time to pass language on the floor. But Rommel remains optimistic.

“I feel confident we will get something,” he said. “You never know until it’s Sine Die.”

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