Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published April 24, 2021
Homeowners worried they’ll have to foot most of the cost
to replace their roofs if they get damaged should be able to relax for at
least another year — unless they need to find a new insurer.
The Florida House and Senate headed into different
directions over legislation to stabilize skyrocketing home insurance costs.
The sponsor of a House bill removed a proposal to free insurers from having
to pay the full cost to replace roofs damaged by windstorms, fire, fallen
trees or other calamities. A Senate version with the proposal, meanwhile, is
likely headed to the full Senate.
Chances are dimming that the proposal will survive any compromise bill that
clears the full House and Senate, said Paul Handerhan, president of the
Federal Association for Insurance Reform, a consumer-focused watchdog group
based in Fort Lauderdale.
“Unless the House changes its mind, the proposal in the Senate bill is not
going to become law,” Handerhan said. “My gut feeling is if it was going to
be in the House version, it would probably be in there already.”
The proposal would allow insurers to reduce roof coverage
when their customers’ policies come up for renewal. Instead of providing
full replacement coverage, insurers would be allowed to pay for just a
portion of the cost to replace roofs more than 10 years old, depending on
the type of roof.
That would leave customers responsible for the balance of the cost, which in
most cases would run into thousands of dollars. Policyholders would have to
pay 30% to replace a metal roof; 60% to replace a concrete tile, clay tile,
wood shake or wood shingle roof; and 75% to replace the common asphalt
shingle roof or any other roof type.
Prospects are dimming for changes to Florida law that
would allow insurers to rollback roof replacement coverage. That
could keep insurance costs rising and private-market coverage hard
to find, experts warn.
An average roof replacement costs $8,228, according to Homeadvisor.com. But
upgraded materials, such as concrete tile, can drive the cost as high as
The proposal would require insurers to pay for full replacement of roofs
over 10 years old only if the house is a total loss.
Roof reform could create more choices
While removing the proposal would be welcomed by contractors, plaintiffs
attorneys and advocates for low-income residents, Handerhan said that
allowing limits would make some insurers more willing to cover older homes
they currently see as too risky.
High claims and litigation rates have compelled many insurers to stop
offering insurance for homes in Florida with roofs over 10 years old,
leaving those homeowners with no choice but Citizens Property Insurance
Corp., the state-owned “insurer of last resort” that subjects customers to
costly surcharges if it cannot cover all claims after a catastrophic storm
Private market insurers will likely keep refusing to cover homes with roofs
over 10 years old if the legislature fails to enact the roof replacement
coverage reduction, Handerhan said.
“Insurance companies would be willing to write coverage if they are not on
the hook for the full cost of roof replacement,” he said. “If a homeowner is
choosing between something and nothing, they’ll probably choose the
Costs through the roof, insurers say
Insurers say they need to reduce millions of dollars in payouts caused by
roofing contractors who aggressively canvass neighborhoods and give
incentives to homeowners who allow them to inspect their roofs for damages.
Because state building codes require full replacement of any roof with more
than 25% damage, contractors have little trouble finding that much damage so
they can bill insurers for the cost of a new roof, they contend.
When insurers balk at paying for the new roofs, roofing contractors sue the
insurers, further driving up costs that must be spread among all homeowners
in the form of rate hikes that averaged 20% to 40% this year and could be as
high next year without reforms, insurers say.
“The reason your rates are going up is that your neighbors are getting free
roofs,” said Locke Burt, president and CEO of Security First Insurance Co.
“But they’re not free. You are paying for it.”
Roofing contractors and their attorneys, however, say they are being
unfairly blamed by insurers who want to avoid responsibility for paying
legitimate claims. Insurers bring lawsuits upon themselves, they say, when
they deny or underpay claims and force consumers and contractors to fight
them in court.
Yet, a South Florida Sun Sentinel review of lawsuits against insurers last
year by roofing companies found a list of roofing companies that have each
filed hundreds of lawsuits against insurers between 2018 and 2020, including
one with 1,054 suits, two that each filed more than 900 suits, and two
others with more than 500 suits each.
‘Dramatic effect’ on low-income homeowners
During a March 17 hearing by the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee,
Rep. Bob Rommel, a Republican from Naples, announced he decided after
meeting with “stakeholders” to remove the controversial proposal from an
insurance reform bill he sponsored. Rommel did not identify the
stakeholders, but contractors and plaintiffs attorneys have been outspoken
in their opposition to the measure in legislative committee hearings so far
this year. Rommel did not respond to requests to discuss his reasons for
removing the proposal from his bill.
Democrats in the House and Senate have also voiced opposition to the
proposed roof coverage rollback, saying low-income residents in their
districts would be devastated by a sudden requirement to come up with
thousands of dollars for a new roof.
Sen. Audrey Gibson, who represents part of Duval County, noted in a Senate
Banking and Insurance Committee hearing on March 18 that millions of
homeowners in Florida have roofs more than 10 years old. The change would
have a “dramatic effect” on older homeowners with roofs that are “hanging by
a thread” that they cannot afford to replace, she said.
Sen. Gary Farmer, a Democrat from Fort Lauderdale, predicted that homeowners
wouldn’t know about the change, if enacted, until they filed a roof damage
The Miami-Dade County Commission, meanwhile, voted unanimously on March 2 on
a resolution urging state lawmakers not to enact the roof replacement reform
proposal and directing the county’s lobbyists to oppose it. The proposal,
according to the resolution, “may disenfranchise homeowners who have for
years been paying their premium by allowing insurance companies to only pay
a fraction of the cost to replace the roof, resulting in a substantial
decrease in coverage for many homeowners throughout the state.”
But those arguments have so far failed to sway Senate Republicans who have
advanced the proposal out of two committee hearings and seemed poised to do
the same in a Rules Committee hearing before running out of time on March
Supporters said that to keep home insurance affordable in Florida,
homeowners will have to realize the need to replace their roofs when they
reach the end of their useful life cycle and save money for that inevitable
Insurers would still be able to offer full replacement roof coverage as an
optional add-on if the proposal is enacted, said Sen. Jim Boyd, a Tampa-area
Republican and co-sponsor of the Senate bill.
Burt compared the proposal to auto insurance. “If you crash a 2016 Honda,
you don’t get a brand new Honda. You get what a 2016 Honda is worth,” he