If you are a Florida homeowner, you likely purchased homeowner’s insurance when you bought your home. If so, you have been paying your premiums since that time because you understand how important it is to have homeowner’s insurance.
If you need to file a claim, however, do you understand your rights as a policyholder? If you are unsure what your rights are, you are not alone. Many Florida homeowners are at a disadvantage when filing a claim because they are unfamiliar with the rights they have as a homeowner’s insurance policyholder.
While not knowing your rights as a homeowner’s insurance policyholder can put you in a less than desirable position when filing a claim, the converse is also true. A better understanding of your rights helps make the claims process less intimidating and increases your negotiating power.
Your Rights Under the Florida Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights
Most of us purchase insurance without ever reading the “fine print” contained in the insurance policy. Even fewer people go to the trouble of looking up their legal rights as a policyholder prior to purchasing a policy. Instead, we purchase insurance and pay the premiums in good faith. In return, we expect the insurance company to pay out a claim in full and without unnecessary delay.
Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, which means they often try to avoid paying claims or undervalue claims. The good news is that Florida homeowner insurance policyholders have legal rights that apply throughout the claims process.
Your rights as a Florida homeowner making an insurance claim are predominantly governed by Florida Statute 627.7142, commonly known as the “Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights.” The Bill of Rights begins by establishing a timeframe within which your insurance company must respond to your claim as follows:
- Within 14 days after you file a claim, you have the right to receive an acknowledgment from your insurance company.
- Within 30 days after you file a Proof of Loss form with your insurance company, you have the right to be notified of your claim’s status (fully covered, partially covered, denied, or being investigated).
- Within 90 days, you have the right to receive a full settlement, payment of the undisputed part, or denial of your claim.
In addition, the Bill of Rights provides you the right to access free mediation services from the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services if a dispute arises relating to your claim. The Department of Financial Services can be a valuable resource for homeowners with a problematic insurance claim.
Advice for Homeowners Filing a Florida Homeowner’s Insurance Claim
Knowing your rights as a homeowner filing an insurance claim is crucial; however, additional advice regarding the claims process itself can also help. Fortunately, the Florida Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights also offers some specific advice to homeowners filing an insurance claim. According to the statute, you should do the following to increase the odds of a successful claims process:
- Contact your insurance company before entering into any contract for repairs to confirm any managed repair policy provisions or optional preferred vendors.
- Make and document emergency repairs that are necessary to prevent further damage. Keep the damaged property, if feasible, keep all receipts, and take photographs of the damage before and after any repairs.
- Carefully read any contract that requires you to pay out-of-pocket expenses or a fee that is based on a percentage of the insurance proceeds that you will receive for repairing or replacing your property.
- Confirm that the contractor you choose is licensed to do business in Florida. You can verify a contractor’s license and check to see if there are any complaints against him or her by calling the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. You should also ask the contractor for references from previous work.
- Require all contractors to provide proof of insurance before beginning repairs.
- Take precautions if the damage requires you to leave your home, including securing your property and turning off your gas, water, and electricity as well as contacting your insurance company and providing a phone number where you can be reached.
If you are a Florida homeowner who needs help with an insurance claim dispute, an experienced Florida insurance attorney can help. Call us at 407-500-1000 or submit our online form today. One of our experienced Florida homeowner’s insurance claim attorneys will explain your rights to you in more detail and discuss your legal options at no cost.