Floridians are being ripped off by unethical contractors who recommend assignments of benefits (AOB’s) to begin working on homes impacted by major disasters. An assignment of benefits (AOB) is a much-abused, but the legally-binding document in which a homeowner assigns the right to collect insurance benefits to a contractor. Although AOBs have a proper place in the contracting world (because they can be a convenient way for homeowners to pay for home improvements), current Florida law also effectively allows scam artists to swarm into Florida after a hurricane and promise to repair Floridians’ damaged homes in exchange for the homeowner or business owner assigning their rights to the proceeds of their insurance policy claim through an AOB.
Newly-Elected Chief Financial Officer Highlights The Scam
Florida’s newly-elected Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, is using his office as a platform to highlight the scam. As Patronis points out, Florida law is almost a license for unethical and unqualified roofers and others to come to town and scam Floridians and then leave town when the scam becomes apparent. How does this happen? When the insurance company is presented with an AOB, they stop communicating with the homeowner and begin dealing directly with the contractor as the person with all rights under the insurance policy (including payments on claims). In practice, this arrangement puts the homeowner at the mercy of the contractor and he or she cannot complain to the insurance company about anything because the homeowner has assigned all of his or her rights to the contractor as far as the insurance company is concerned.
Many of the contractors who push for these arrangements are companies from out of state that set up shop specifically to prey on hurricane victims and these fly by night operations are often operated by incompetent and unethical individuals. The result is often a home that is not repaired — or shoddily and slowly repaired — combined with fraudulent or overbilled claims being submitted by the contractor to extract extra money from the insurance company. Thus, the insurance company often overpays the contractor, the homeowner doesn’t fully receive the services from the contractor, then the contractor shuts down and leaves the state once the complaints from homeowners begin to pile up. This leaves the homeowner without insurance and without the home repairs needed and, indirectly, costs the insurance company more money (which leads to higher premiums).
This Isn’t A New Problem
Fly-by-night contractors who use AOBs to exploit Floridians should be severely punished (and insurance companies need to do a better job in dealing with the AOB situation). In fact, over the last several years, we have identified and highlighted problems we see in this area of the law on multiple occasions:
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Legislative action banning this practice is necessary. Senate President Bill Galvano said that 2019 should be the year to legislatively address the AOB issue and we strongly agree. This is an area that needs lawmakers' attention (before another Hurricane hits Florida) in order to stop this rampant abuse in Florida.
ABOUT VERNON LITIGATION GROUP
Vernon Litigation Group is a law firm that represents clients in courtroom litigation, arbitration, and mediation throughout the United States. Our lawyers have experience pursuing unethical and incompetent contractors as well as unethical insurance companies in hurricane-related claims, including cases involving Assignment of Benefit abuses. Feel free to contact us to discuss your rights if you believe you have a claim against a roofer, contractor, or insurance company. For more information, visit our website at http://vernonlitigation.com or contact us by phone at (239) 319-4434 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with an attorney at Vernon Litigation Group.