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Florida legislators from Brevard promise property insurance reform after hearing residents

Originally published by Florida Today| Read Full Article Here

By Dave Berman

One by one, homeowners strode to the speakers' podium in the council chambers at Melbourne City Hall to tell their personal horror stories about the property insurance industry.

Policies canceled for no good reason. Being turned down for coverage by multiple carriers. Skyrocketing premiums. Insurers rejecting legitimate claims. Scams perpetrated to get "free roofs."

Listening to it all were Florida Senate Majority Leader Debbie Mayfield and Florida Rep. Randy Fine, who promised that state legislators would take action to help correct the mess during a special session that begins in Tallahassee on May 23 that will focus on property insurance reforms.

The legislators, along with several local elected officials, were on hand to listen to residents' issues — and their suggested solutions — at the town hall forum on the property insurance crisis. About 75 people attended, and 19 addressed the panel during the two-hour-plus event.

Mayfield and Fine said this issue is the most common topic of calls and email from constituents these days.

"I think what we heard today is the same thing we've been hearing from all the constituents that are calling the office and emailing us," Mayfield said after the town hall. "Everything that's being said is exactly what we keep hearing over and over again."

Mayfield said the Florida Legislature tried to reach a deal on insurance reform during their regular session earlier this year, but the House and the Senate could not agree on a plan.

"We couldn't make it over the finish line," said Mayfield, R-Indialantic.

But she promised things will be different during the special session.

"I'm pretty confident we'll have something" by the end of the weeklong special session, Mayfield said. "If not, Gov. DeSantis will extend the special session until we get it done. He is adamant that we will have an insurance policy done before we leave Tallahassee."

There were lots of ideas kicked around at the town hall session.

Many were designed to reduce the costs for insurers in paying out claims, beyond what legitimately should be paid. That's so that insurers would not losing money from their Florida business — and would not have to seek huge premium increases to make up for their losses, or drop their presence in the state entirely.

Among the ideas that appeared to gain traction were:

Cracking down on fraudulent claims for new roofs filed by unscrupulous insurance adjustors or others who get an "assignment of benefits" contract from the homeowner to handle the claim, in return for a cut of the payments. In many cases, the claims seek a new roof for something like "hail damage" that was nothing more than minor wear typical on an older roof.

Limiting how much attorneys can get from handling lawsuits involving insurance claims.

West Melbourne City Councilman John Dittmore — who was on the panel and is involved in the insurance industry — said there is a disproportionate amount of payments to attorneys in Florida in property insurance cases, compared with the rest of the country.

Mariann Tomasik of Cocoa was among 19 speakers who discussed their insurance problems and proposed solutions during a forum at Melbourne City Hall.

Tying how much money a homeowner can receive for roof damage to the age of the roof. Proponents of that concept compared it to auto insurance, in which the owner of a 15-year-old vehicle that is totaled in an accident does not get the amount of money that would pay for a brand-new car.

Florida Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, addresses the audience during Thursday night's forum on homeowners' insurance at Melbourne City Hall.

Fine encouraged residents with property insurance issues to call their legislators' offices with their complaints.

"There are good actors and bad actors" in the insurance sector, said Fine, R-Palm Bay. "They're not all good and they're not all bad."

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