The Restoration Association of Florida filed a lawsuit to prevent a new insurance law that the group claims violates the single-subject rule of the Florida Constitution, while also infringing on the rights of homeowners and roofing contractors who perform work under valid assignment of benefits contracts.
The RAF is joined in the suit by Florida Premier Roofing LLC. The suit was filed in Leon County Circuit Court in June. The lawsuit states the new law empowers insurers to choose to merely repair a damaged roof even when it should be entirely replaced to properly protect the home.
“Insurance companies have one thing in mind – profit – and they’ll always try to minimize what they pay even for valid claims where extensive repairs are warranted,” said RAF President Richie Kidwell. “This new law would allow insurers to ignore other rules and regulations, and this conflict cannot be allowed to stand.”
The state legislature passed the law in question, SB 4-D, during the recent special legislative session in response to the Surfside condominium collapse, which happened in a suburb of Miami last June. Ninety-eight people died and dozens more were left homeless. An investigation into the collapse determined its cause as accumulated water damage due to the major error in the construction of a new pool deck, which led to deterioration of the nearby parking structure’s roof.
“One of the most important parts of this legislation is the update to roofing policies, which ensures there is a clear understanding between homeowners and insurance companies about roof repair and replacement coverage and costs
The new law modifies the state building code for roofs. The older code required building owners to replace entire roofs if just 25% of the surface is damaged. Owners can now perform more targeted repairs as long of the rest of the surface meets standards.
The part of the law the RAF objects to requires condominium and cooperative association buildings that are three or more stories high to have a structural integrity inspection by an architect or engineer when a building reaches 30 years of age and every 10 years thereafter, or 25 years of age and every 10 years thereafter if the building is located within three miles of a coastline. The inspection report results must be provided to local building officials, associations, and unit owners.
The lawsuit states that because such language “lacks any cogent connection to regulating roofing contractors and repairing and/or replacing roofing systems in residential homes,” the statute is unconstitutional for violating the single-subject requirement.
“While everyone’s attention was on condo reforms following the tragic Surfside disaster, the Legislature once again did the insurance industry’s bidding by slipping in provisions aimed squarely at hard-working contractors,” said Paul Green, an owner of Florida Premier Roofing.
“They must have hoped no one would notice, but they can’t get away with violating the rights of homeowners and contractors.”
RAF also sued to block another measure passed during the special session that prevents contractors who hold assignments of benefits from recovering their attorneys’ fees if they prevail against insurance companies. In a separate action, the association previously sued the state Insurance Commissioner and two insurance companies over an order allowing the companies to circumvent state law in order to change customers’ policies, in violation of state law and the Florida Constitution.
“We’re challenging these unfair statutes to make sure Florida law works for homeowners — rather than empowering insurance companies to extract as much profit as possible out of Floridians,” Kidwell said.