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First came the My Safe Florida Home program, providing matching grants to homeowners who fortify their homes against wind damage in exchange for premium discounts. Seeing the popularity and effectiveness of that program, Florida lawmakers last month introduced bills to expand the effort to include grants for elevating and strengthening homes to reduce flood damage.
Now comes Florida Senate Bill 1366, approved unanimously Tuesday by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, which would provide wind mitigation for condominiums near the coastline. The My Safe Florida Condominium Pilot Program would help condominiums and condo associations, which have been slammed with costly inspections, repairs, soaring insurance premiums and much-reduced coverage limits in the last two years.
The fortification work may include new windows and doors, stronger roof connections and secondary water barriers on roofs.
“I think this pilot program is consistent with what we’ve done here in the Legislature to get property insurance premiums under control,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Nick DeCeglie, R-St. Petersburg.
The program, like the My Safe Florida Home system, would be managed by the Department of Financial Services and would include inspections by qualified and screened inspectors. For every $1 provided by a condo association, the program would kick in $2 in state funding.
The bill does not provide a ceiling on the size of the grants — unlike the homeowners program, which caps grants at $10,000. The measure also does not provide a funding mechanism but notes that the program would be subject to “annual legislative appropriations.”
If the bill were to pass the full Legislature, wording in it could limit the number of applicants, despite the dire dire need for lower insurance costs. The bill specifies that applications for grants would have to be approved by a majority of the condo association board and would have to pass a unanimous vote of all unit owners in the buildings.
Such a high threshold could be difficult to achieve. Critics have said that some of the troubles facing condominiums, including the lack of repairs before the 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building near Miami Beach that killed 98 people, were the result of condo boards being unable to gain enough support from unit owners to proceed with structural improvements. That was changed by Florida Senate Bill 4D, the condo reform bill that was signed into law in 2022. The law now notes that association boards may no longer avoid certain vital repairs and upgrades.
DiCeglie did not explain at the committee meeting Tuesday why that unanimous-vote requirement is in the bill.
The Banking and Insurance Committee also approved another insurance bill offered by DiCeglie. SB 1338 would provide a regulatory framework for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation to oversee pet insurance policies.
The bill is based on a National Association of Insurance Commissioners model law, adopted in 7 states, DiCeglie said. It would require disclosure by pet insurers on policy exclusions, waiting periods, and deductibles, and would give pet owners the right to rescind a policy within 30 days of issuance.
The regulation is needed due to huge growth in the pet insurance market. Some policy premiums around the country have exceeded the cost of medical care for the pet; and the industry has seen a rise in complex policies with too many exclusions, the NAIC has said.
“This is long overdue,” DiCeglie said in the committee meeting. “OIR does not have a regulatory framework to work in and that is what this bill seeks to accomplish.”
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