Controversial flood insurance debate missing key player

As debate intensifies over changes to Citizens Property Insurance Corp. policies, Florida’s consumer advocate remains silent

Insurance News

By Ryan Smith

Florida’s new insurance consumer advocate hasn’t offered a definitive opinion about controversial policy changes approved last month by Citizens Property Insurance.

But Sha’Ron James has urged a thorough evaluation of the proposed changes to avoid unintended consequences to policyholders and the overall insurance industry, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

The proposed changes were developed to shrink the number and cost of non-storm-related water damage claims – as well as the associated lawsuits. Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and allies in the insurance industry say that water damage restoration companies, plumbers, public adjusters and even plaintiffs’ attorneys submit fraudulent claims with inflated repair bills and then sue to force settlements, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

While the proposed changes were supported by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, they’ve raised the ire of other groups. The proposals would reduce coverage amounts and impose a 72-hour deadline for reporting losses to Citizens. Those changes have been opposed by the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters and the Florida Association of Insurance Reform – a nonprofit watchdog group known for its pro-industry stances.

But one person that hasn’t joined the debate is the state’s top insurance consumer advocate. According to the Sun-Sentinel, James has declined several requests to state her views about the policy revisions. A spokeswoman for James’ office told the paper in an email last week that James wants to find out whether Citizens will revise the policies before submitting them to the Office of Insurance Regulation, which can approve or reject them.

“Given that the conceptual changes could look widely different than what was previously discussed, Sha’Ron does not feel it prudent to complete a review on what does not yet exist,” Ashley Carr, director of communications for the Florida Department of Financial Services, told the Sun-Sentinel.

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