Florida Contractors Slam AOB Measures Favoring Insurance Companies

28 Mar

Recently, the Restoration Association of Florida (RAF) responded to two bills moving through the Florida Legislature that could affect the assignment of benefits (AOB) process

RAF stands in opposition to the bills (SB 122 and HB 7065), saying they fail to address the needs of both homeowners and contractors. RAF hosted a panel of attorneys, contractors and homeowners at the Crowne Plaza Tampa Westshore to highlight the issues they see with the bills aimed at reforming the AOB process. The groups main complaint is that the insurance companies unfairly deny or underpay claims and the proposed reforms would make this issue even worse.  

The two bills both contain changes to the AOB process that would require property owners to deal with their insurance company directly to determine who can make the repairs as well as the total budget for the repair. One bill even allows insurers to sell policies that eliminate the AOB process altogether. 

The current AOB process allows homeowners to sign an AOB form which basically signs over their insurance benefits to the contractor, allowing them to make decisions on the repair process and even bill the insurance company directly. Insurers claim that less than honest contractors submit bills for work not done or overcharge for repairs, and then sue when the claim is denied or adjusted. 

Homeowners Complain as Well

In a recent FLAPOL article, the experience of Mike Betz was highlighted. He owns a home in Largo and a roof leak flooded his home. His insurer sent a “preferred vendor” to repair the leak and dry out the house. 

Unfortunately, shortly after the repair, the roof leaked again and his insurer again sent out their contractor to fix it. It happened a third time and now Betz has been working with a lawyer for the past 15 months to settle with his insurer. The repairs have not been completed and he cannot live in his home. 

The RAF says that this highlights one of their biggest concerns, insurers using contractors who don’t perform quality work or cut corners to save money. Another major concern of the RAF is that homeowners who have an issue in the middle of the night or during off hours and call a contractor to get the repairs started, the contractor may have trouble getting paid since the homeowner did not go through the insurance company first. 

Homeowners also expressed frustration with the amount insurers are willing to pay for repairs and claim that the insurers “preferred vendors” usually lead to low cost estimates for the damage. One homeowner shared their experience, which resulted in their insurer offering $9,000 for a damaged roof and interior damage. After the homeowner hired an attorney and public adjuster the insurer settled for $54,000.

Lawsuits Increasing

One of the biggest issues with AOB is the dramatic increase in lawsuits. Insurance companies claim that shady contractors partner with questionable law firms and sue over denied claims related to overcharges or billing for work that was not done. 

A recent Insurance Information Institute study found that lawsuits have increased dramatically. The report showed that in 2000 there were roughly 1,300 AOB lawsuits across Florida. This number grew to 79,000 by 2013 and managed to hit 135,000 through the first part of November 2018, which represents about a 70 percent increase over five years. 

The RAF is blaming the increase in lawsuits on underpaid claims by insurers.Richie Kidwell, president of the RAF Board was quoted in a recent FLAPOL article talking about this issue.  “We are hopeful these real-life examples will resonate with Florida’s legislative leaders, so they clearly understand that property insurance carriers are to blame for much of the increased litigation. Insurance companies’ attempt to blame AOB on restoration contractors is merely an attempt to hide the truth,” Kidwell said in the article.

The RAF also claims that the increase in lawsuits stems from frustrated homeowners who decide to go the legal route after getting the run around from their insurance company. The RAF plans to keep meeting with Florida legislators to make sure their concerns are heard and that the AOB process continues to be an option for Florida homeowners

The Senate bill is currently in the Judiciary Committee and the House bill has one more committee stop before being voted on. 

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