On September 4, 2017, Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, declared a state of emergency in every county in Florida in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, through Executive Order No. 17-235, triggering Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier’s related emergency authority. Fla. Stat. § 252.63(1). On September 13, 2017, Commissioner Altmaier issued the Office of Insurance Regulation’s (the “Office”) Emergency Order establishing and amending certain rules for insurance companies post Hurricane Irma.

The Emergency Order applies to insurers and other entities regulated under the Florida Insurance Code.  It institutes temporary rules regarding cancelling or nonrenewing residential and commercial residential policies; temporary rules regarding rate filings, the “file and use” rate filing processes, and the “use and file” rate filing processes; new rules on time periods for action by insureds;  and detailed notice and cancellation requirements for premium finance companies.

The Emergency Order encourages insurers to use the “latest technological advances to provide prompt and efficient claims service to policyholders,” and it waives certain authorization requirements to enable the broader use of debit cards and electronic transactions to pay claims.  A few of the specific provisions are as follows.

Cancellations and Nonrenewals

  • Insurers may not cancel or non-renew a personal residential or commercial residential property insurance policy on a property that was damaged by Irma. The policy may be canceled or nonrenewed 90 days after the property has been repaired.

 Rate Filing Deadlines

  • Deemer periods, under which a filing is deemed approved if the Office does not act within a certain time period, are extended for 90 days commencing on September 4, 2017.
  • The Office is suspending acceptance of “file and use” rate changes for 90 days.
  • “Use and file” rate changes already pending at the Office, but not yet approved, with effective dates of September 4, 2017 through December 3, 2017, must be approved by the Office prior to implementation.
  • Any “use and file” rate changes currently in use without an official filing must be withdrawn and the previous rate reinstated.

Certain Insured Deadlines

  • Time limits in any policy provision, notice, law, or correspondence requiring an insured to act or transmit information after September 4, 2017, are extended to December 3, 2017. This extension does not apply to new policies issued on or after September 10, 2017.  The extension does not apply to premium due in the normal course of business.
  • No interest or other charges may be assessed as a result of the extensions. Interest due under premium financing plans may be assessed.
  • Premium due in the ordinary course of business may be assessed.

Cancellations and Nonrenewals 

  • No policies may be cancelled or nonrenewed between September 4 and October 15, 2017, unless requested in writing by the policyholder. Notices of cancellation issued or mailed on or after August 25, 2017, must be withdrawn and reissued on or after October 15, 2017.
  • Premium for the extended coverage period will be the appropriate pro rata portion of the premium for the entire term of the policy.
  • The extension rules do not apply to new policies effective on or after September 4, 2017.

Premium Finance Company Risks

  • There are separate rules for premium finance company cancellations.
  • The Emergency Order includes explicit notice language that must be included in a cancellation notice from a premium finance company.

Debit Cards and Electronic Transactions

  • For the duration of the State of Emergency, requirements for written authorization from the insured for use of electronic transfers or debit cards to pay claims are waived, as long as the insurer verifies the identity of the insured or the insured’s recipient and does not charge a fee for the transaction. The insurer remains liable for any misdirected funds.