Florida just adopted a major insurance reform package that will directly impact the property insurance industry in the state. On May 24, 2022, the Florida Senate voted 30-9 to approve SB-2D, and then on May 25, 2022, the House passed the bill with a vote of 95-14. Governor DeSantis signed the bill into law on May 26, 2022.
In announcing his signing of the bill, DeSantis called the reform package “the most significant reforms to Florida’s homeowners insurance market in a generation.” Below we provide a quick outline of some of the important components of this new legislation:
Attorneys’ fees are no longer recoverable under an AOB except pursuant to Florida Statute Section 57.105. This prohibition is not limited solely to “Assignees” under § 627.7152, but also extends to “anyone other than a named or omnibus insured or a named beneficiary.” As such, in addition to impacting vendors operating under an AOB, another significant aspect of this change is this prohibition appears to include post-loss purchasers of an insured property. The relevant sections are as follows:
(4) In a suit arising under a residential or commercial property insurance policy, the right to attorney fees under this section may not be transferred to, assigned to, or acquired in any other manner by anyone other than a named or omnibus insured or a named beneficiary. *Identical language has been adopted for surplus lines’ carriers under § 626.9373(3)
See SB-2d at p. 44 of 54 striking the prior language, and 627.7152(10).
Pursuant to the amended language of Florida Statute Section 626.9373, the calculation of attorneys’ fees for insureds’ lawsuits against a surplus lines insurer will be awarded pursuant to the requirements of § 627.70152.
The court may now award insurers their attorney’s fees for obtaining dismissal under § 627.70152 due to the insureds’ failure to comply with the Notice of Intent requirement. See Fla Stat. § 627.70152(8)(a)(3)(b).
In awarding attorneys’ fees pursuant to § 627.70152(8)(a), a strong presumption is created that a lodestar fee is sufficient and reasonable. Such presumption may be rebutted only in a rare and exceptional circumstance with evidence that competent counsel could not be retained in a reasonable manner. This impacts the potential for attorney fee multipliers. See Fla Stat. § 627.70152(8)(a)(3)(c).
The definition of an “Assignment Agreement” pursuant to § 627.7152 is amended to mean “any instrument by which post-loss benefits under a residential property insurance policy or commercial property insurance policy, as that term, is defined in s. 627.0625 (1), are assigned or transferred, or acquired in any manner, in whole or in part, to or from a person providing services, including, but not limited to, inspecting, protecting, repairing, restoring, or replacing the property or mitigating against further damage to the property.” This is significant in that the definition now includes “inspecting,” which will now require engineers and diagnostic vendors to comply with the strict requirements of the AOB statute.
Section 624.1551, Florida Statutes, is created regarding Civil remedy actions against property insurers and provides that a claimant must establish that the property insurer breached the insurance contract to prevail in a claim for extracontractual damages under s. 624.155(1)(b).
Florida Statute Section 627.7011(a) is amended to state that if a roof deductible under 627.701(10) is applied to the insured loss, the insurer may limit the payment for the roof to ACV of the loss until the insurer receives reasonable proof of payment by the policyholder of the roof deductible.
Any physical inspection of a non-hurricane claim must occur within 45 days after the insurer's receipt of the proof of loss statements. See Fla Stat. § 627.70131(b). (Effective January 1, 2023).
Within seven days of assigning an adjuster to the claim, the insurer must inform the policyholder that he/she may request a copy of any detailed estimate of the amount of the loss generated by an insurer’s adjuster. (Effective January 1, 2023).
If you have any questions regarding these legislative changes or any inquiries regarding property insurance coverage or litigation issues in Florida, please do not hesitate to contact Chartwell Law.