Federal Judge Halts Part of Florida’s New Property Insurance Reform Law

A federal judge has suspended enforcement of some of Florida’s new… property insurance reform (SB 76) law) that limits the advertisements and requests of roofers.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker granted the injunction Sunday in response to a roofer’s complaint that the portion of the law violates commercial speech rights and the First Amendment.

The legislation, passed on the last day of the legislative session and signed by Governor Ron DeSantis on June 11, went into effect on July 1.

Judge Walker found that the portion of the law prohibiting “written or electronic communications that encourages, incites, or instructs anyone to contact a contractor or public claims adjuster for the purpose of making an insurance claim for roof damage” violates is with the first amendment of contractors.

He ordered enforcement of this part of the new law, but did not declare the entire law unconstitutional.

The complaint was filed by Gale Force Roofing and Restoration and was heard in an expedited hearing on Friday.

The advertisements banned by the section include, but are not limited to, door hangers, business cards, magnets, flyers, pamphlets, and emails. The language “does not indicate that the ban applies only to speech that is misleading, fraudulent or related to illegal activity,” the judge noted.

Sponsors of the legislation wanted to thwart roofing companies that pressure homeowners to make unnecessary repairs and then charge insurance companies, driving up insurance costs.

The State Department of Business and Professional Regulation unsuccessfully argued that the provision is a reasonable restriction on commercial expressions to combat consumer exploitation and fraud, “ensure the line between contractor and insurance expert is not blurred,” and to help Florida homeowners to protect against “sky-high insurance premiums”. premiums, or, worse, the inability to buy the homeowner’s insurance at all.”

The judge agreed that fraud is a serious problem for the state, but said the legislature has not addressed these concerns within the limits set by the constitution. He felt the provision goes too far in restricting advertising and contractor requests and suggested that the state has other options to deal with fraudulent behavior without imposing such a broad ban on voicing contractors.

He found that while the state of Florida has identified significant state interests, none of these interests are directly implied by contractors advertising their roof repair services to homeowners and informing homeowners that they may have storm damage that may be covered by insurance.

He said the evidence suggests there are “less restrictive, narrow-minded resources” available to the state rather than banning protected speech that does not directly cause the identified ailments.

“There is a difference between targeting inappropriate behavior or practices (contractors acting as public claims adjusters, exploiting consumers, filing fraudulent claims, etc.) and targeting anything that could lead to that behavior, including truthful information that a consumer may have. storm damage, and that storm damage may be covered by insurance,” the judge wrote in its 44-page decision.

He said the state has failed to demonstrate why this ban on speech is “reasonably appropriate for realizing its interest in lowering insurance costs for Floridians as opposed to other less restrictive means,” such as an economic policy of subsidy or cost regulation.

He also criticized the state’s evidence as “feeble-minded” by claiming the total cost of insurance fraud is $40 billion, but later acknowledged that the $40 billion figure includes fraud categories in addition to more roof fraud.

The new law doesn’t just target roofers, but also includes changes to the statute of the state’s one-way attorney fees, citizens’ eligibility and glide path, and the deadline to file claims.

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