Lawmakers Approve $500 Million Hurricane Relief

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

Florida lawmakers are sending an early Christmas gift to hurricane victims. They passed more than $1 billion in relief measures during this week’s special session in Tallahassee, but some folks could be left with hefty insurance hikes as a result.

More than 30,000 Floridians faced two or more insurance deductibles this year in order to get their homes repaired after being hit by more than one hurricane.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher didn’t think that was fair. He helped push through a bill this week to ban insurers from collecting more than one deductible per hurricane season.

“Help is on the way. The Legislature recognized that there are many people because of the multiple deductibles who are going to be unable to repair their homes and that is not good for those people. It’s not good for the state as a whole.”

The ban on double deductibles comes at a cost of about five dollars more a year on your policy to reimburse the state. It is part of a billion-dollar hurricane relief package that includes tax rebates for owners of damaged or destroyed homes, reimbursement of sales tax on replacement mobile homes, beach restoration, and loans to help fix damaged schools.

But the hurricane relief bills passed by lawmakers could be bad news for condominium owners. The bill to protect homeowners from double deductibles could end up sending condo insurance rates skyrocketing by more than 30 percent.

The problem is condo associations carry huge deductibles, as much as two million dollars, to help keep their rates down.

Sam Miller with the Florida Insurance Council says if insurers can’t collect second or third deductibles for multiple storms, they’ll have to jack up their rates.

“The company is going to have to buy reinsurance to cover that gap. It’s taking on an incredible amount of additional exposure and it will have to pass those reinsurance costs on to those condo owners.”

The good news is lawmakers are already pledging to re-work the law this spring so condo owners will have a choice of single or multiple deductibles. State officials don’t want the help they gave so many Floridians to end up hurting others.

The State Department of Financial Services will handle reimbursements of multiple deductibles. Eligible property owners can receive up to $10,000 to cover a second and third deductible.

Storm victims will have to pay the first deductible plus $100 toward any others, and provide proof from their insurance companies that they were billed more than once.

You must submit your application by March first. For more information, call toll-free 1-800-22-storm or log onto the Florida Department of Financial Services website at www.fldfs.com.


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