Construction company challenges new property-insurance law

A case that challenges new Florida property insurance law brought by a construction company in Hillsborough County, has made its way to federal court.

In the case, heard by Chief US District Judge Mark Walker On Friday, Gale Force Roofing and Restoration, LLC, said the new measure violates the First Amendment. As of Saturday morning, Judge Walker has not placed a ruling on the court.

The company filed suit in June to challenge part of the law created to prevent contractors from advertising to encourage property owners to file claims for roof damage, arguing that it is contrary to the protection of freedom of expression.

Lawmakers have passed the measure end of April, in an effort, supporters argue, to tackle rising property insurance rates. Proponents of the bill argued that questionable roof damage claims have played a major role in driving up costs.

The bill, (SB 76), was sponsored by Sen. Jim Boyd, a Republican from Bradenton, tried to crack down on contractors who pressured customers to make unnecessary repairs and then charge insurance companies. It also sought to reduce attorney fees related to disputed claims going to court.

In the lawsuit, the Gale Force Roofing and Restoration said it advertises storm damage inspections to roofs, which it can no longer do under the new law, considered “prohibited advertising.” The law took effect on July 1.

The company also argues in the lawsuit that the law is aimed at reducing the number of insurance claims filed, not tackling fraud.

But lawyers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the secretary of professional regulationsregel Julie Brown — the defendant in the case — disputed that the limitations of the law violate the rights of the First Amendment.

For example, the filing said, “Targeted digital ads or emails, door hangers or hand-out brochures are prohibited if and only if they encourage a homeowner to file a roofing insurance claim. Radio and television advertising is allowed because they are not aimed at ‘a specific person’.”

The filing also said Florida has a “compelling state interest” in ensuring homeowners are protected from skyrocketing insurance rates and have access to coverage. The document states that fraud by contractors drives up costs.

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The Florida News Service contributed to this report.


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