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Bill would make home insurers explain the claims process

Homeowners whose residences are damaged in a fire or storm usually need all the help they can get setting things right. Dealing with the insurance company can be confusing, and sometimes a rightful claim is denied for bad-faith reasons.

A bill in the Florida Legislature to help homeowners understand the claim process, and protect them against one form of bad faith claim denial, has won an important victory. On April 10, the House Regulatory Affairs Committee approved the bill, which includes the so-called “Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights” provision.

The bill was suggested by Jeff Atwater, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer. Atwater sees the issue as a consumer protection problem. His office received 350,000 calls last year from people whose homes were damaged, but were uncertain about how to file a claim. Clearly, this is not a matter of a few inexperienced homeowners.

The “Bill of Rights” would explain that process, including important dates to know, such as the maximum length of time insurance companies are allowed to wait before responding to a claim. If passed, the bill would require insurers to mail policy holders the “Bill of Rights” within 14 days of when their filing a claim.

Why can’t they be informed of their rights the day they get their homeowner’s insurance policy? Rep. Dave Hood, a member of the committee, said doing so was not “cost effective.”

Perhaps just as importantly, the bill would prohibit insurance companies from denying a claim based on the policy holder’s credit history. Also, insurers would no longer be able to cancel a policy following a claim, if the policy has been in effect for at least 90 days.

It appears to be gaining momentum now, but it still must be passed by the full House and the state Senate.

Source: NorthEscambia.com, “House Advances ‘Homeowner Claims Bill Of Rights’,” April 11, 2014

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