Can you explain pending legislative initiatives by Florida insurance companies to limit policyholder rights under common homeowner policies?

New Legislation would remove the rights of homeowners to participate in the selection of the methods to be used to repair their properties. Under current law, prior to the commencement of a repair method to resolve sinkhole problems, insurance companies are obligated to consult with the homeowner regarding the manner in which the home will be fixed. This would seem intuitive (it’s your home – shouldn’t you have a say as to how it is fixed?). This is preserved under current law, in . The pending bill on this issue, House Bill 447 would strip this from the law, and permit insurance companies and the engineering firms they retain to determine how your home is fixed. Instead of requiring some form of input from you, the insurance company need only “provide notice” to you regarding how the home will be repaired.

This process removes the homeowner from being provided an opportunity to select the methods to be used in repairing the home. In fact, if the insurance company was to suggest one method, but you retained an expert who would suggest another, they can ignore your request. There would appear to be no real reason to do this, given that the allegation of “fraud” we often hear about people filing sinkhole claims relates to people filing “bogus” sinkhole claims. If, however, we have a home where sinkhole activity has been confirmed, it was clearly not bogus. Instead, the issue is how to fix a home where sinkhole activity has been found. More than anything, this portion of the bill is more punitive than anything else, and removes homeowners from the process. In fact, what if the insured wanted to follow a less expensive method, but wants to do so because of the potential impact particular repairs will have on your home? In the end, I would urge anyone who is interested to ask that this bill stop in its tracks. Have a burning question you’d like to ask about sinkholes? Let us know.

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