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Sha'Ron James


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House backs 'assignment of benefits' changes

 

Date: April 26, 2017
Source: News Service of Florida
Author:   

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - With the issue appearing stuck in the Senate, the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill dealing with a controversial insurance issue known as “assignment of benefits.”

The House voted 91-26 to approve the insurer-backed bill (HB 1421), sponsored by Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa.

A significantly different bill (SB 1218) was approved April 3 by a Senate committee but otherwise has not moved forward.

The annual legislative session is scheduled to end May 5.

The assignment-of-benefits issue involves homeowners who need property repairs signing over benefits to contractors, who then pursue payments from insurance companies. Insurers argue that abuses of the process, particularly related to water-damage claims, are driving up homeowners' insurance premiums. But contractors and plaintiffs' attorneys contend the process helps force insurers to properly pay claims.

The proposal would make a series of changes that, in part, would seek to curb litigation about claims.

Rep. Richard Stark, a Weston Democrat who supported the House bill, said people have improperly taken advantage of assignments of benefits for years and, without legislative action, rates could go up and fewer insurers might remain in the market.

But Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, said changes in the bill could result in more litigation.

“It's going to be tied up for the next two years,” Geller said. “That's not going to keep up with the mission, which is to keep rates low.”