A trade association representing independent contractors that specialize in making storm repairs has filed a lawsuit against a new property insurance reform measure, arguing that the new law tramples on the rights of contractors and homeowners.
The Restoration Association of Florida filed the lawsuit in the Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County against the secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and other state officials, alleging that the newly passed Senate Bill 4-D is unconstitutional in its targeting of roof contactors.
“The Florida Legislature approved legislation (SB 4-D) that unconstitutionally targets roofing contractors and the work they perform for homeowners,” the complaint filed June 2 states. “Rather than address factors within the property insurance industry that have led to its problematic volatility, the Florida Legislature chose to violate the rights of homeowners and these contractors – the individuals and businesses that repair the homes owned by Floridians damaged by extreme weather events such as hurricanes.”
A law called the Matching Statute mandates that insurers use replacement materials for roofs that match the quality, color and size of existing materials, according to the complaint. Replacement and repair of items in adjoining areas may be required to ensure uniformity of the homeowner’s roof, it says.
“Many homeowners prefer to replace damaged roofs when significant issues arise after a severe weather event,” the lawsuit states. “Yet, their insurance companies – corporations that reap the benefits of policy premiums – prefer to pay less and make repairs, exposing the homeowner to further issues in the future.”
SB 4-D allows insurers to make piecemeal roof repairs and deny a homeowner’s claim to replace an entire roof in accordance with the Matching Statute, according to the lawsuit.
Tort reform supporters, however, point out that Florida’s just-passed reforms were based on successful reforms that are still on the books in other states, including the reforms Texas put in place in 2017.
““This has been a cash cow for unscrupulous roofers and these lawyers for a long, long time,” Tom Gaitens, executive director of Florida Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, told the Florida Record. “… I don’t think their lawsuit is going to have much merit and traction.”
Although $15 billion has been paid out in the property insurance claims process in recent years, 71% went to attorneys’ fees and only 8% went to policyholders, according to Gaitens.
“There’s a cottage industry just on property-insurance roof claims, and closing that loophole is not a violation of rights, it’s a protection of rights,” Gaitens said, indicating that he himself lost his homeowner’s insurance two years ago as the industry contracted.
The lawsuit also alleges that SB 4-D violates the single-subject rule in the Florida Constitution in that it covers multiple complex topics related to the property insurance industry.