Robin Westcott announced through a press release that a Homeowners’ Policy & Claims Bill of Rights Working Group was formed. The press release indicated the following:

Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Smith Westcott, appointed by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, has launched a new working group to discuss potential improvements to the homeowners’ insurance claim process with the sole purpose of helping to better serve Florida homeowners who suffer a financial loss.

The Homeowners’ Policy & Claims Bill of Rights Working Group is comprised of representatives of consumer organizations and industry representatives. The idea for the group stemmed from the feedback that Westcott received when she collaborated with Tasha Carter, Director of the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Consumer Services, on a series of Insurance Consumer Forums. These forums held recently throughout the state provided a platform for Florida homeowners to discuss their experiences with filing a claim. Many described long and frustrating processes that impeded their families’ ability to recover. Westcott stated, “Consumers should not be victimized by poor claims handling and unscrupulous business practices by those seeking to exploit homeowners when they are most vulnerable”.

The following issues will be discussed by the working group:

  • Adjusting & Investigating the Claim – Examinations Under Oath

  • Post-Claim Underwriting & Material Misrepresentation on the Application

  • Solicitation of Consumers within 48 – 72 Hours of a Loss and Policyholders’ Requirement to Mitigate Damages

  • Assignment of Claims and Unauthorized Adjusting of Claims

  • Insurers’ Right to Repair – Safeguards and Warranties for Consumers

  • Non-Renewal of Policies – Post-Claim but Prior to Repairs

  • Mortgage Company Withholding of Funds for Repairs for Loans in Arrears and Guarantee 100 Percent Replacement Cost

  • Mediation and Appraisal

  • Other Issues Identified by the Working Group

The goal will be a comprehensive report that provides recommendations for addressing each item either administratively or through proposed legislation. In addition, the working group will review the current Policyholders’ Bill of Rights.

I am not certain who is on the committee. There was not much time allowed for changing schedules and preparation for the meeting – it will be next Wednesday and Thursday. Since the committee will make suggestions for regulatory and legislative change, it is important. You can bet the insurance industry lobby will be in attendance and plotting its strategy.

I will send Robin Westcott copies of posts from this blog on these issues and will have an attorney from Merlin Law Group in attendance. I noted in Sean Shaw to Head Up Model Claim Transparency Bill and Robert Hunter, Amy Bach, and Robin Westcott Call For Claim File Transparency that there is a need for regulation and legislation requiring insurance companies turn over their claims files to customers if requested. I would hope Ms. Westcott will support that as she has said it is needed.