TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As homeowners across the state of Florida continue struggling with skyrocketing insurance rates, even a man who makes his living defending property insurance companies says the system is broken.
Attorney Michael Monteverde’s perspective is significant. He’s an insurance defense attorney, in the trenches daily, and concedes that even homeowners with legitimate roof claims are losing.
He’s speaking out against his financial interest.
“If we could fix this system and I never got another case in this kind of work, I’d be happy,” Monteverde said. “What we see on a daily basis, in many instances, is so crazy and so egregious.”
Monteverde says the cases started four years ago. Contractors, on behalf of Florida homeowners, suing insurance companies for roof damage.
According to Monteverde, approximately 50% of the claims that land on his desk are not legitimate, meaning insurance inspectors found no roof damage tied to the stated weather event.
But half the cases are legit, where the homeowner must repair or replace their roof.
The dispute is over cost. Monteverde says that’s where contractors, who’ve obtained control of the claims process from homeowners, enter the picture.
“They’re sitting in the middle, hijacking these claims,” Monteverde said. “‘We’re going to ask you for triple the rate for what it actually costs and if you don’t pay us triple the rate, we’re going to sue you.’”
He did, however, point out that it’s “not in every case, not every contractor, not even all contractors in every case.”
At that point, insurance companies look at their overall risk. Many times, Monteverde says they determine it’s safer to settle. Going to court and losing means they could be on the hook for outrageous attorney fees.
“What ends up happening is the insurance company not only then has to pay attorneys like myself but they ultimately, and many times, are on the hook to pay the attorney’s fees for the other side as well,” Monteverde explained.
In 25 days, lawmakers will convene in Tallahassee for a special session on the homeowners insurance crisis. Time is of the essence because hurricane season starts just 10 days after that.
8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi is looking to speak with Tampa Bay homeowners who have just lost their property insurance coverage. If it’s happened to you and you’d like to share your story, email Mahsa at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.