Florida property owners waiting on insurance savings after special session

Republicans have warned it could take 12-18 months

News 6 investigator Louis Bolden learned a program aimed at rewarding you for hardening your home against storms is struggling to get off the ground.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a property insurance reform bill into law one week ago, and so far, consumers are still dealing with rising rates.

News 6 also found that one program, meant to give you cash back for money spent to harden your home against storms, is barely taking shape, even as we enter hurricane season.

[TRENDING: TIMELINE: When, where tropical system will impact Central Florida | Score free doughnuts for National Doughnut Day | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

Bronson and Elizabeth Collins said the latest increase in their property insurance premium was jaw-dropping.

“Shock. We were shocked and angry I guess at such an increase,” Elizabeth Collins told News 6.

Their premium went from $1,680 a year to $2,473.00, according to their insurance paperwork.

Not only that, but just weeks ago, the Collins’ insurer requested a 48% increase from the Office of Insurance Regulation for next year.

“It just seemed unreasonable to see that much at one time,” Bronson Collins said.

Collins is 88 years old and said an increase like that is tough on seniors.

“Unless we get some relief from the state, I don’t think it’s gonna get better with any insurance company,” he said.

News 6 has been combing through the legislation since the special session and found relief from the state is slow going. The earliest rate reduction could come at the end of the month.

The state has earmarked $2 billion dollars for a fund to act as reinsurance, which is basically insurance for insurance companies if Florida had a catastrophic storm and they couldn’t pay out their claims.

Like many things, the cost of reinsurance has gone up, according to insurance companies.

The idea is, if insurers get reinsurance from the state that they don’t have to pay for, they will pass that savings along to consumers.

According to the legislation, insurers that participate in the Reinsurance to Assist Policyholders Program this year said they “shall reduce its rates to reflect the cost savings realized by participating in the program,” according to the legislation.

Insurers are to file their rate reductions no later than June 30, the property reform law states. Republicans who authored the bill, however, couldn’t say how much that reduction would be.

“I don’t have an exact number. That’s something that we’ll be able to see after those rate filings happen June 30,” Rep. Jay Trumbull said on the house floor during the special session.

But don’t expect much, according to Democrats. An amendment that required insurers to make at least a 5% reduction failed during the special session.

Financial Grants

Bronson Collins said he is interested in the My Safe Florida Home Program, which offers financial grants to property owners to retrofit their properties to make them less vulnerable to hurricane damage.

Grants are matched—for every dollar the homeowner spends, the state will spend two.

“In other words, if I spend $5,000, they’ll give me $10,000? Where do I sign up?” he asked.

But News 6 found homeowners can’t sign up because the program isn’t set up.

“The CFO’s top priority is to set up the program as quickly and efficiently as possible,” according to an email from Devin Galetta, the spokesperson for the Department of Financial Services.

The department anticipates the applicants will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis.

“I just wonder how much money they wasted having their special session,” Bronson Collins said. “I don’t think anything was accomplished.”

The first come, first served is key because the program only has so much funding. If all participants qualified for the maximum $10,000 grant, that would mean less than 12,000 homeowners could take advantage of it out of millions of property owners in the state.

The property insurance law is already being challenged in court.

A group of contractors have already filed a lawsuit challenging the portion of the law that limits attorney’s fees. Check back with News 6 for updates.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.