If you own a home in Florida, you should be familiar with the Homeowner Bill of Rights. If this is an unfamiliar concept to you, please keep reading! The Florida Homeowner Bill of Rights was approved by Gov Scott in 2014 and it summarizes the rights a homeowner has when filing a property damage insurance claim as well as important deadlines/timeframes related to the insurance claims process.
The Homeowner Bill of Rights was passed as a way to educate Florida homeowners on their rights in this situation. It’s a beneficial concept when viewed from this point of view. Unfortunately, our insurance dispute attorneys have learned the language used can give homeowners the wrong impression of how the insurance claim process will go. Before you find yourself in a dispute with your home insurance provider, we encourage you to review this resource.
Understanding Your Rights After Filing a Property Damage Insurance Claim
Let’s say your home is damaged in a storm and you file a claim with your home insurance provider. This is when you receive the Homeowner Bill of Rights brochure. This not only details your rights but also breaks down the required steps in the insurance claims process.
1) Claim is Acknowledged by Your Insurance Provider within 14 Days
Here’s the first important deadline to be aware of as a homeowner. After you file your property damage claim, your insurance provider has 14 days to officially acknowledge the receipt of your claim. Keep an eye out for this acknowledgment, it can come via snail mail or email.
2) Your Right to Receive an Answer in Regards to Your Claim within 30 Days
Under Florida law, insurance companies are required to make decisions quickly when evaluating the claim in question. They’ll need to obtain a completed proof-of-loss statement from the homeowner before any decision can be made. The insurance carrier will provide the form and the homeowner will need to fill it out with the following details:
- Date of the incident for verification
- Description of what caused the damage (hurricane, storm, burglary, etc)
- List all pieces of property that were damaged
- Description of what type of damage was incurred and to what extent
- Photographic evidence of the damaged property
- The estimated cost of replacing the damaged property with new equivalents
- List the parties who have a financial interest in the damaged property
Once the homeowner has submitted the proof of loss statement, the insurance company has 30 days to respond and let you know their decision regarding the claim. If they aren’t paying the property damage claim in full, they may choose to deny it, underpay it, or inform you that it is being investigated further.
3) Your Right to Receive Payment for Your Claim within 90 Days
This is a deadline that all Florida homeowners should be familiar with. If you take it at face value, then this measure should give you the reassurance that you can expect to receive compensation for your property damage claim in a timely manner – within 90 days of receiving the completed proof-of-loss statement.
An experienced insurance dispute attorney in Florida knows that the reality is a bit harsher. That’s because the Florida Homeowner Bill of Rights states that you have the right to receive a payment for an undisputed portion of the claim (underpaid insurance claim) or an official denial of your claim as well. The 90-day limit doesn’t actually require the insurance carrier to provide any compensation – not if they find some factor they can dispute or claim isn’t covered under your policy.
If you are pursuing a claim without an insurance dispute attorney, then don’t be surprised if the first offer your insurance carrier provides is less than what you are seeking.
4) Homeowner’s Right to Free Mediation
If you end up in a dispute with your insurance carrier, the Florida Homeowner Bill of Rights states you are eligible to go to a free mediation with a representative to resolve the dispute. There are certain situations where you may not qualify for free mediation, but it is available in most cases.
Contact the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) Division of Consumer Services if you’re interested in seeking mediation services. However, we strongly recommend that you contact an insurance dispute law firm before going to mediation with your provider. Herman & Wells offers a free initial consultation and it should be noted that most experienced insurance dispute attorneys aren’t going to take a case after the person has gone to mediation.
5) Florida Homeowner’s Right to Free Neutral Evaluation
Florida homeowners currently may be eligible to receive an impartial evaluation, free of charge. Similar to a homeowner’s right to choose a public adjuster as an appraiser, this one is limited in Florida.
These circumstances need to be met in order to qualify for a free neutral evaluation:
- The claim has been disputed
- Property damage was caused by a sinkhole
- Your home insurance policy covers that type of damage
6) Florida Homeowner’s Right to Assistance with Their Insurance Claim
We’ve talked about this a lot, but the insurance claims process (whether it is for a damaged home or a car accident) in Florida is complicated. So this is included as an extra measure homeowners can turn to for help if needed. The Bill of Rights brochure comes with the contact information for Florida’s Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services – the hotline number is (877) 693-5236.
Why the Homeowner Bill of Rights Really Covers Insurance Carriers
The Florida Homeowner Bill of Rights has a really nice sound to it. The wording in this brochure is designed to make homeowners feel reassured as it outlines the steps the insurance carrier must take after a claim has been filed. Just keep in mind that each of these requirements is subject to its own sets of statutes that can make this process decidedly more complicated than it appears at first glance.
The other element that isn’t covered in this Bill of Rights is the impact your adjuster can have on the insurance claim process. Florida homeowners are not given the right to choose their own adjuster after filing a claim, one is randomly assigned. Carriers can use in-house adjusters or some will assign an engineering firm as the adjuster. The quality of these adjusters will vary from company to company, and some carriers have developed a reputation of training adjusters to look for any reason to deny a claim. These are insurance companies that are also happy to take you to court if you dispute their decision.
Insurance companies remain in business because they have highly trained professionals and legal teams looking for legitimate reasons to underpay or flat out deny property damage claims in Florida. If they freely paid out every claim they received, they’d never be able to stay in business. Florida homeowners who aren’t very familiar with the nuances of the claims process can make the mistake of being too trusting with the insurance adjuster assigned to their claim. There’s a reason why insurance companies have invested so much money in developing brand personas that are disarming, friendly, or just plain lovable. Homeowners who approach this process like they’re working with someone who unconditionally has their back can end up providing exactly the angle the adjuster needs to deny or reduce the value of their claim.
Why Florida Homeowners Should Call an Insurance Dispute Lawyer
If you go through this process on your own and end up with a denied insurance claim, you have the right under the Homeowner Bill of Rights to seek free mediation and try to reach an agreement with your insurance carrier. However, it isn’t easy to get these companies to change their mind once a decision has been made. Herman & Wells has a team of experienced insurance dispute lawyers that understand the strategies providers employ and how to successfully dispute an unjust decision (in court if needed).
Our best recommendation to Florida homeowners is to take a proactive approach early on in the process. If you are ready to dispute the decision regarding a property damage claim, call (727) 821-3195 or use our online form to request a free consultation with an insurance dispute attorney. Here’s what we can do for you in this consultation:
- You’ll get the opportunity to review your property damage claim with an expert insurance dispute attorney.
- Whether you have a valid case or not, you’ll get very valuable insights on what your next steps should be.
- If our attorney feels you have a valid case we can help with, you’ll learn more about what you’re truly entitled to from your insurance carrier.
- You’ll never pay out of pocket — we’ll only get paid out of the additional money we recover from the insurance company.
Remember that we aren’t saying that all insurance companies are bad or should be distrusted. However, we feel it is imperative that more homeowners in Florida take a more strategic and educated approach to the insurance claims process. Our team is here to help if you ever need it.
Case ResultsSee More Case Results
Delayed and Underpaid Homeowners Claim
A family’s home near Lakeland, Florida was damaged by a hurricane. Water came into the house from the roof. The insurance company sent its own contractor to dry it out, but didn’t complete the job. The adjuster also wrote an estimate to repair the inside of the house, but the insurance company made the adjuster delete some of the repairs from his estimate. At the end of the day, the insurance company only paid the family $1,900 for their damage. After we were hired to help the family fight back against the insurance company, the family was able to recover an additional $220,000 from the insurance company to settle the case.
Underpaid Water Damage Insurance Claim
A pipe broke in our clients’ home and flooded their house. Their homeowners insurance company paid about $11,000 for the insurance claim. Our clients hired a public adjuster to help them with the claim, but the insurance company refused to pay a reasonable amount. The public adjuster reached out to us and we filed a lawsuit for the homeowners. Ultimately, we reached a settlement for an additional $69,500 to be paid by the insurance company, bringing the total amount paid up to $80,500.