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FL - As Special Session Nears, Florida Chamber Urges More Property Insurance Reforms

Florida is in the midst of a swirling storm with a property insurance market that has been described as in free fall.

In late August, we marked the 30th anniversary of Category 5 Hurricane Andrew making landfall in South Florida. At the time, Andrew was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. More recently, parts of Florida were decimated by Hurricane Ian, a strong Category 4 hurricane that will join the ranks of costliest Atlantic hurricanes and, unfortunately, one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever strike Florida.

Simply put, Hurricane Ian is a crisis on top of a crisis.

As Floridians, we know it’s not if there is a hurricane, but when. This season, like every hurricane season, we must do our part to prepare, to harden our homes and businesses to mitigate potential damage, and plan for the worst outcomes. Catastrophic storms not only bring devastation and suffering to those impacted, but drive up rates consumers must pay and, of late, have only intensified our manmade property insurance crisis. In 2021, Florida generated 7.03% of property insurance claims nationwide but was responsible for 76.32% of the nation’s homeowner insurance lawsuits filed. These numbers are especially alarming considering that until Hurricane Ian, Florida had not had a major storm hit our coast since 2018.

Unfortunately, due to our bottom-five legal climate (according to the FloridaScoreCard.org, compiled by the Chamber Foundation’s Community Development Partnership Council) driving unnecessary litigation and fraud, Florida’s property insurance rates have skyrocketed to three times the national average. Additionally, non-catastrophic claims and the incentive to litigate have led to many property insurers going out of business or reducing their coverage in Florida. Recently, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the taxpayer funded “insurer of last resort,” reached more than 1 million policies, putting all taxpayers at risk of a massive “hurricane tax” if a major storm exhausts their reserves. Prior to Hurricane Ian making landfall last week, Citizens president and CEO Barry Gilway had bluntly stated “the industry is on life support.”

To address this crisis, Gov. Ron DeSantis wisely called a special legislative session that convened in May. The reforms that passed are a significant step forward, but like previous efforts to fix the market, the trial lawyers and fraudsters fight to stay a step ahead of policymakers and reforms, so we have much more work to do.

We need to stabilize the market by restricting fraud and abuse by bad actors and eliminating the incentive to over-litigate. We need to create competition in the market by welcoming new capital and addressing Citizens Property Insurance’s below-market, taxpayer-subsidized rates. The ultimate goal is to reduce insurance premiums for hard-working Floridians and protect Florida taxpayers.

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