Governor Charlie Crist signed the property insurance reform "Homeowners' Bill of Rights" into law yesterday. It offers a number of protections and upgrades for Florida homeowners. In his letter issued to the public, Gov. Crist said "the bill contains many important consumer protections that will help keep insurance costs more affordable for Florida's homeowners."
The law goes into effect July 1, 2008, and makes the following changes:
- Extends the rate freeze for Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state's insurer of last resort, to January 2010.
- Allows single-family residential homes and condominiums with a replacement value of up to $2 million into the Citizens insurance pool.
- Requires Citizens' policyholders of property located in wind-borne regions and with an insured value of $500,000 or more to disclose the property's windstorm mitigation rating to prospective buyers.
- Increases fines for violations of the insurance code and for unfair trade practices by private insurers.
- Extends by one year to January 2010 a provision from last year's insurance bill that requires insurers to get state approval before raising property insurance rates.
- Requires insurers to notify state regulators 90 days before dropping more than 10,000 homeowners' policies in one year.
- Requires insurers to use state-approved methods to predict the risk of hurricanes, a key factor in setting rates.
While it does not completely solve all the problems causing rising insurance costs here in Florida, some of the requirements should help bring additional relief to residents who have seen their premiums sky rocket over the last few years.