Friday, July 26, 2013


The Homeowners’ Policy and Claims Bill of Rights Working Group is a panel developing consumer-protection recommendations that they will offer to the Legislature in next year’s session.

Recently the state levied a $1.26MM fine against the state’s 2nd largest insurer, Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company for wrongly denying claims and canceling policies without adequate notice.   Universal has 550,000 policyholders. 
Universal was cited for using credit histories of clients to deny claims, long after the underwriting process should have been completed.  A bill was amended to limit use of credit records to deny coverage to 90 days after policy is written, but the bill failed to pass.
Some Florida consumers had had damages claims denied and coverage canceled because of an old credit report, despite having long-held insurance policies with same company.  Some others face lengthy legal proceedings in which they must participate or risk losing their policies.  Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Smith Westcott cautioned consumers in the middle of a claim or dispute to refrain from immediately signing contracts with contractors, adjusters and other groups offering aid.  He said, “first, contact your insurance company to get the process started”.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Tax Reform is underway on Capitol Hill. The Senate tax-writers have adopted a "Blank Slate" approach that initially eliminates every provision in the tax code, including those that are cherished by homeowners and future homeowners.  The intent is to lower tax rates that in turn will stimulate the economy.
From a 
website created for the effort
"In order to make sure that we end up with a simpler, more efficient and fairer tax code, we believe it is important to start with a "blank slate" -- that is, a tax code without all of the special provisions in the form of exclusions, deductions and credits and other preferences that some refer to as "tax expenditures." This blank slate is not, of course, the end product, nor the end of the discussion....
We plan to operate from an assumption that all special provisions are out unless there is clear evidence that they: (1) help grow the economy, (2) make the tax code fairer, or (3) effectively promote other important policy objectives."

The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Finance Committee recently
 began a legislative push to simplify the tax code by asking all Senators to make a case for including special tax breaks.Senator Max Baucus, on the left, and Senator Orrin Hatch want to start work on the tax code by clearing it of special breaks, unless those breaks meet specific goals. 
In the House, the committee that works on tax measures is called the Ways and Means Committee and it is headed up by Dave Camp, (R-Mich). This Committee has held many hearings on tax reform and has built "working groups" to arrive at a game plan for tax reform.

Normally Senators are tasked with the need to eliminate tax breaks but Senator Baucus and Senator Hatch thought that it is easier for Senators to come up with their list of deductions and breaks they want SAVED.

Every  $2 trillion in individual tax breaks added back to their "blank slate" would raise tax rates 1.3 to 2.2 percentage points. In other words, Senators must decide between popular tax breaks and low income tax rates.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


To protect our military forces with mortgage relief, termination of leases, protection from eviction, a 6% cap on interest rates and the right to reopen any default judgments made during their active duty, in 2003, President Bush signed into law the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.  This law applied only to obligations that originated before their military service and were still in effect.  “Servicemembers” includes all those on active duty in the military and includes National Guard members called up for active duty for more than 30 days.

All lenders should be immediately notified when you go on active duty, and they must receive a copy of your military orders.  When put on notice, all interest payments must be reduced to 6% and lender must forgive all pre-service debts exceeding the 6% cap.  Your monthly payment must be reduced.  This also applies only to debts that were initiated before active service began.

Leases entered into before active service began can be terminated before expiring, giving landlord 30 days advance notice of termination and rent must be paid up to termination date.  A private life insurance policy cannot lapse, terminate or be forfeited for nonpayment of premiums while insured is on active duty and for one year after duty ends.

Garnishments and attachments, requested by military personnel or a court, may be stayed or vacated during active service.  The court can appoint an attorney to represent the interests of a servicemember.

The Supreme Court ruled that the law must be read with “an eye friendly to those who dropped their affairs to answer their country’s call.”