Finally, a Bill of Rights for Homeowners in Florida
When you pay thousands of dollars a year in homeowner's insurance premiums, you are right to expect that if a fire, storm damage, water damage or other catastrophe or loss occurs, your insurer will honor the terms of your policy. Unfortunately, for thousands of Florida residents, this is not the always the case.
A key culprit in questionable insurance practices has been Universal Property & Casualty Co., which insures many homes throughout Palm Beach County. A media investigation of the company's practices revealed that not only did it cancel policies but, worse yet, it denied claims for such irrelevancies as a "failure" to mention tax liens in other states.
In response to Universal's and others companies' unfair practices, the state legislature drafted bill SB 708, nicknamed the Florida "Homeowners' Bill of Rights," earlier this year. On April 30, the law passed the House unanimously. Among its many provisions are:
- The stipulation that insurers have 90 days to review insurance policy applications. Once 90 days pass, insurers can no longer deny claims based on information that is in the public record.
- The requirement that each policyholder receive a copy of his or her rights as an insurance owner upon filing a claim.
Reaction to the Homeowners' Bill of Rights was overwhelmingly positive from lawmakers and property owners alike. "This is a much-needed resource for homeowners that will notify them of their rights when filing an insurance claim and give them the confidence that they will be treated fairly ..." stated Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. A consumer who was forced out of her home due to unfair insurance practices praised the bill, noting insurers "can't let people think they have insurance and then when they need it, oops, they don't have it." The Homeowners' Bill of Rights will both strengthen policyholders' rights and educate policyholders as to these rights.
Despite the new protections that will be delivered by SB 708 (provided it passes in the senate and is signed into law by the governor), policyholders remain at risk of deceptive practices used when insurers attempt to save money and increase profits. To ensure that your rights are protected when dealing with an insurer following a loss, contact Tampa insurance law attorney Jeff Pekar of Pekar Law P.A. at 813-712-8762.