Florida Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance Reviews Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate’s Homeowners’ Policy and Claims Bill of Rights Legislation (SB 708)

Feb 11, 2014


Florida’s Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance (“Committee”) met today, February 11, 2014.

Senator Bean presented Senate Bill 708 relating to Insurance claims to the Committee.  The bill is a product of the Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate’s Homeowners’ Policy and Claims Bill of Rights Working Group.  It adds mediators and neutral evaluators to the list of individuals or entities that the Florida Department of Financial Services or the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation can investigate for alleged improper conduct.  The bill also provides that a residential property claim cannot be denied based on credit information.  The bill also makes changes to the assignment of benefits for a property insurance claim, establishes a Homeowners’ Claims Bill of Rights, defines “emergency mitigation services” and revises qualifications for mediators of personal injury claims.

There were two amendments filed and adopted to the bill by Senator Hays. The first amendment addresses the assignment of benefits section of SB 708 and changes the language to prevent restricting the assignability, but also implements a set of standards.  The second amendment clarifies that the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights does not apply to commercial lines insurance, but solely personal residential polcies.  The amendment also clarifies that a policyholder should receive the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights within 14 days of receiving communication about a claim.  Steve Burgess, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate testified in support of both of the amendments.

Senator Diaz de la Portilla presented his late-filed amendment to the Committee, which removes language and restrictions relating to assignments of benefits. 

Senator Bean explained the issues with removing this language, saying that the language that was adopted by the previous two amendments and the language addressing the assignment of benefits is protection for the consumer.  It is a very beneficial portion of the bill, he said, and should be included in SB 708. 

Senator Detert explained her concern with the “48 hours language,” which states that a policyholder has 48 hours to contact a contractor and, if he or she is unable to do so within the 48 hours or a “reasonable time period,” that specific assignment is no longer valid.  Senator Detert requested that Senator Bean work with the Committee to find a middleground between the bill and the late-filed amendment to address the concerns about the 48 hours provision.  

Senator Lee expressed his concern and belief that the bill needs more work and that it is not in final form.  He said he would support the bill today, but hopes that Senator Bean will continue to work on the language to find a solution. 

Representatives from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, as well as Insurance Consumer Advocate Burgess testified against Senator Diaz de la Portilla’s late-filed amendment.

In debate, Senator Richter supported the bill and opposed Senator Diaz de la Portilla’s late-filed amendment.  Senator Lee did the same, but noted the assignment of benefits provision needs some work before the next committee stop.  The late-filed amendment was voted down 6 to 6–all Democrats. Senator Detert and Senator Diaz de la Portilla supported the amendment.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater spoke before the Committee to ask for legislators’ support on the bill in response to testimony from public adjuster representative.  The bill passed unanimously, but Chairman Simmons also remarked that some work must be done on it.



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