House Advances “Homeowner Claims Bill Of Rights’

April 11, 2014

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater moved a step closer toward two of his session priorities on Thursday after a House committee signed off on a measure that would bar insurers from using credit history to deny claims and would also require insurers to provide a checklist of consumers’ rights regarding insurance claims.

The House Regulatory Affairs Committee backed a bill (HB 743) that would prohibit insurance companies from using credit information to deny claims or cancel policies after a claim has been filed if the policies have been in effect for at least 90 days.

The bill, now on its way to the House floor, would also require insurers to send a checklist — dubbed by Atwater as the “Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights” — to a policyholder within 14 days after a claim is filed. The checklist would include information about how long insurance companies have to respond to and settle claims. The Senate version (SB 708) has been awaiting a floor vote since March 13.

Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, said policyholders should be advised of their rights when they first get their policy, something Atwater said he would support. But Daytona Beach Shores Republican Rep. Dave Hood, the sponsor of the House bill, said that the approach in the proposal would be more “cost effective.”

“This is an attempt to give (policyholders) the information at the time they need it, without them having to hunt through the house or whatever if there has been a flood or something else,” Hood said. Atwater requested the list, which was put together by the state’s consumer advocate Steve Burgess, in response to his office receiving about 350,000 phone calls last year from people trying to navigate their claims.

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