The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) in the US has said that some parts of a recent Florida property insurance reform bill could be used by Congress for national insurance legislation to help storm victims.

Given final approval by Governor Jeb Bush on May 16th, the new legislation includes a flex-rating system allowing rates to be adjusted by up to ten per cent, and the option of small insurers buying extra reinsurance from Florida's Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.

Florida property owners will also benefit from an increase in the upper claim limit covered by the Florida Insurance Guarantee Association, up from $300,000 to $500,000.

In an attempt to minimise damage before it strikes, homeowners will also receive free inspections to identify ways in which Florida homes can be made more resistant to the impact of hurricanes.

However, after 2008 homes valued in excess of $1 million will no longer be able to be insured by Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state homeowners insurer of last resort.

Following a panel discussion of Florida property insurance issues on May 12th, PIA CEO, Len Brevik, said the property insurance legislation was the "most significant" since Hurricane Andrew.

"It helps insurer solvency and loss mitigation while at the same time strengthening consumer protections. This is precisely the kind of innovation that will be needed as Congress crafts national legislation."

He added the time had now come for a "coordinated natural disaster catastrophe programme", protecting both victims of storms and insurance companies overwhelmed by claims following a serious incident.

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    Carol McDonald