TAMPA, Fla. - Florida is headed into an insurance crisis. Rates for home insurance are rising, and hundreds of thousands of homeowners may not be able to get a policy at all.
Mandy Wells could be one of them. The Lee County resident is sick of living with a leaky roof.
"[The contractor] said we can get all this all covered for free," Wells said.
The insurance company didn't agree.
Experts say contractors like that are part of the reason insurance companies can't afford to do business here. Two years later, the claim is being fought in court.
"They didn't do any work," said Wells.
Insurance companies lost $1.5 billion last year, especially to contractor fraud and storm damage.
Hurricane Irma of 2017 and Michael of 2018 forced tens of billions in payouts to the point where this year, the state got 90 requests to raise property insurance rates, with 55 seeking 10% or greater, and one asking for 35%.
"The insurance companies are attempting to offset the losses they are seeing in those categories by increasing rates and implementing coverage restrictions as well," said Tasha Carter, Florida's insurance consumer advocate.
Carter expects insurers to drop those who live in older homes or in high-risk areas. She is pushing for the legislature to approve a batch of bills that would clamp down on shady contractors and unlicensed adjustors.
"Then I think all you are left with is the probability of experiencing a hurricane," said Carter.
St. Pete State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R) says the state is also considering clamping down on attorney fees. He says rates are poised to double over the next three years.
"These are long-term solutions," said Brandes. "The challenge is even if the legislature passed the bill and signed by the governor, and implemented immediately, it would take 18 to 24 months for us to really begin to see the results."
And results are what homeowners like Mandy Wells need right now.
"I completely expect to be dropped by my carrier, especially with storm season approaching," said Wells.
And her roof is still leaking.
Below are links to bills that are designed to help solve the problem:
- Senate bill 76: https://flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2021/76
- Senate bill 1598: https://flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2021/1598
- House bill 717: https://flhouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=70578&SessionId=90