LEE COUNTY, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced an executive order to extend deadlines for property taxes to people whose homes or businesses have been rendered unusable due to damage caused by Hurricane Ian.
DeSantis made the announcement Thursday at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille in Lee County, which took the brunt of Hurricane Ian as it came ashore.
“I do not have the ability as governor to eliminate property tax obligation,” DeSantis said. “So this will delay (those) payment dates and the reason why we’re doing that is we want to give us time so that the legislature can come in sometime after the election, but before the end of the year, and provide rebates for the affected homeowners or property owners.”
The governor added he would be calling a special session to allow property owners to receive rebates on their property taxes for homes and businesses destroyed by the storm.
“We will have a formal announcement very soon on the exact dates but because this is going to be necessary, we are going to have the legislature come back before the end of the year for a special legislative session,” he said. “One of the purposes of that legislative session will be to address these tax obligations and to make sure that the homeowners and business owners can get rebated on their property tax. We actually just passed a bill recently where that’s the norm, it just doesn’t kick in until Jan. 1. We’re gonna make that retroactive we’re going to make sure that relief is there.”
DeSantis said part of the legislative session would also be aimed at seeing whether the state will have to provide additional funding to essential services, which are typically funded by property taxes.
Beyond that, the governor said the special session will look to do more in the way of reforming the state’s ailing property insurance market.
“I’ve gotten agreement from both leaders (of the Florida House and Senate) to do additional things for homeowners insurance,” he said. “We did a legislative session in May. There were some very positive reforms that were done but there were also things that we wanted to do that the legislature at that time was not willing to do. I think we will be able to do that in this special session.”
The governor did not elaborate on what those measures on property insurance might look like or how they might affect property owners.
DeSantis also said he has additional measures in the works to help with storm recovery but that he was not quite ready to announce what they may be.
“We got some other announcements to help some folks coming up that we’ve been working on with some of our agencies and so we’ll be back to be able to make those announcements hopefully as soon as possible,” he said.
Last week, DeSantis signed an emergency executive order making some election concessions to three counties ravaged by Hurricane Ian: Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota. Wednesday, the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan voting rights group, sent a letter to DeSantis and Secretary of State Cord Byrd, asking to expand that order to almost two dozen other counties.
Following Hurricane Ian, experts said another 500,000 claims have been filed in the Florida.
Lisa Miller, former Florida Deputy Insurance Commissioner, said flood coverage needs to be extended in most policies in order to cover losses.
“Water does not know how to stop at a line on a map,” Miller said. “They believed they were never going to flood, and they often believe that because they are living in a certain area that a map tells them that they are not going to flood.”
After a year of record policy rate increases, Miller said Hurricane Ian claims have simply made the problem much worse. She added that insurance companies are working hard to service each claim, however there is a large volume of claims being processed.
A special session was held in May, though critics said no substantial solution was established.
Miller said another potential solution is limiting the number of lawyers making commissions by filing lawsuits on behalf of policy holders.
“When third parties intervene in that relationship between the policy holder and their insurance company for their own benefit, for the third party attempting to earn fees, that’s when the problem begins,” Miller said.
Miller suggests anyone with questions regarding filing a claim should call the state hotline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO or (877) 693-5236 for free assistance.
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