BEACON PHOTO/NOAH HERTZ EXPRESSING HIS DISMAY — Bill McIntyre, a semiretired educator, gestures in his DeLand home as he looks over insurance quotes that have gone way, way up over the past two years.

Bill McIntyre was shocked when he opened his property insurance bill earlier this year. After a major increase last year, the company had increased his premiums even more steeply this year.

“Last year, it was raised 60%, and this year, they doubled that,” McIntyre told The Beacon. “We’re shopping around.”

But McIntyre, a resident of DeLand, hasn’t had much luck, at least not so far.

“What galls me is that they’re getting away with it,” the semiretired educator said. “The insurance commissioner approved the rates, and he’s an appointee of the governor.”

The Legislature has to approve such appointees, but McIntyre’s ire is also pointed at others.

“Our representative is Elizabeth Fetterhoff, and she’s been no help to anybody,” he said. “And she’s the vice chair of the insurance and banking subcommittee” in the Florida House.

But Fetterhoff is not the only legislator to come up empty-handed after trying to find solutions to the troubled property insurance situation.

The House and Senate could not reach agreement on an insurance plan during this year’s regular session, which ended March 14. Property insurers have sought major rate increases and shed customers to reduce financial risks, with two insurers recently placed into state receivership.

Fetterhoff, a Republican lawmaker from DeLand, told The Beacon that a big problem is the amount of fraud that is causing much of the problem for insurers.

PHOTO COURTESY ELIZABETHFETTERHOFF.COM
DILIGENTLY AT WORK — State Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff poses at her desk in the state Capitol in this undated photo from her website.

“We’ve got to take a look at it,” she said. “We addressed roofing fraud last year, and we have to see how those changes work out. … People are going to have to deal with it until then.”

Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told Gov. Ron DeSantis and Cabinet members recently that his office is taking steps to help address roof-damage claims, which insurers say play a major role in the financial problems.

In this year’s session, the Senate wanted to take a more aggressive approach than the House in trying to bolster private insurers.

For example, the Senate proposed allowing new deductibles of up to 2 percent on roof-damage claims — an outgrowth of complaints by insurers that questionable, if not fraudulent, roof claims are driving up costs. As an example, under the Senate proposal, a homeowner with $300,000 in overall coverage could have faced a $6,000 deductible to replace a damaged roof.

But the House rejected the idea, which would have led to increased out-of-pocket costs for homeowners who need to replace damaged roofs.

Fetterhoff said the higher rates are necessary, at least for now.

“Insurance companies are losing money hand over fist, and they’re just protecting their interests so they can be there when they’re really needed,” she said. “Fraudsters jack up the costs for everybody else.”

Fetterhoff believes a special session will be called to address the insurance issues.

“If a special session is called, it will probably be before the next [regular] session and after the elections,” she said. “But we need to figure out what the loopholes are so we can close them.”

— News Service of Florida contributed to this report

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