Changes to Florida Homeowners Insurance

A bill which was passed by the Florida legislature on the last day of the most recent legislative session, signed by Gov. DeSantis, and went into effect on July 1, 2021 aims to provide some relief for homeowners insurance policyholders who’ve seen their premiums dramatically increase in recent years. The bill, SB 76, implements several changes to existing state insurance laws to accomplish this, but Florida policyholders need to know about one particular provision. 

Pre-Suit Notice Requirement

As of July 1, 2021, homeowners insurance policyholders must provide a written notice to insurers prior to filing litigation connected with the homeowners policy. Specifically, policyholders in Florida must provide this notice (referred to as a “pre-suit demand”) at least 10 business days before suing. The pre-suit demand must contain the following information: 

  • A price estimate of the demand;
  • The amount in dispute and demanded by the policyholder;
  • Attorney’s fees demanded; and
  • The alleged acts or omissions of the insurance carrier.

Not providing the pre-suit demand severely limits the ability of the policyholder to recover certain fees in court, which would then disincentivize a lawsuit from the insured. In most cases, courts are required to dismiss suits where the insured did not provide the pre-suit demand.

After the Pre-Suit Demand

Insurance carriers also have an obligation to respond to the pre-suit demand. The procedure for responding to these pre-suit demands depend on the nature of the complaints and what the policyholder is alleging, but carriers generally must respond within 10 business days.In some cases, the carrier is allowed to re-inspect the property within 14 business days as long as the carrier properly responded to the pre-suit demand. In any case where the dispute revolves around denial of coverage, the insured must eventually choose to either accept coverage or continue denying coverage. 

Another option for the insured is to demand alternative dispute resolution through mediation or arbitration. Fortunately, the law requires mediation or arbitration to conclude within 90 days after the expiration of the 10-day pre-suit demand. If it hasn’t, the insured is able to proceed with a lawsuit.

Other Provisions of SB 76

The new law makes a number of other changes to state law in attempts to bring down costs for policyholders. It restricts the ability of attorneys to recover fees and prohibits contractors from doing certain things to encourage policyholders to make claims. Sponsors and other supporters of SB 76 claim the ultimate purpose of the new law is to bring down costs of premiums for policyholders, but it partially comes at the expense of policyholders’ rights. 

Salas Law Firm is well aware of the recent changes to Florida insurance laws. While we are hopeful that policyholders will see some benefits from SB 76, they should know that it’s as important as ever to contact an attorney before filing suit against your homeowners insurance carrier. Call our team at (954) 315-1155 to get an experienced Florida insurance lawyer on your side.

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John Salas