Florida Chamber Pushes for Assignment of Benefits Reform

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and its Consumer Protection Coalition today attended the Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate’s forum on Florida’s water loss crisis to stress the need for Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform.

During the forum, we testified that Assignment of Benefits abuse is hurting Florida’s homeowners and businesses and must be stopped before it leads to higher insurance costs for policyholders statewide. Additionally, we delivered 1,000 petitions signed by residents, business owners and other interested parties urging state leaders to add protections to ensure homeowners stay in control of their policies when they seek emergency repairs for such things as a broken kitchen pipe or a roof leak.

“Assignment of Benefits abuse is a scam that causes consumers to lose control of the insurance policies they bought and paid for, fueling costly lawsuits and taking money out of the pockets of hardworking homeowners,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “State legislators and insurance regulators have received clear evidence for four years now that this scam is growing and spreading statewide. We can’t ignore it and think it will go away on its own. We have to take action now.’’

The forum, titled “Troubled Waters: Finding a Balanced Approach to Florida’s Water Loss Crisis,’’ was organized by Insurance Consumer Advocate Sha’Ron James to gather information from various stakeholders about water loss claims abuse. It included presentations by several industry and trade groups that have joined the Florida Chamber’s Consumer Protection Coalition, including the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association. Consumers who have been victimized by AOB abuse also attended the forum to tell their stories.

“When you’re standing ankle deep in water in your home, the first thing you want to do is get rid of the water. You’ll sign anything to get the work done, and you don’t think about what could happen down the road,’’ said Eleanor Posner of Delray Beach, who signed an AOB and later discovered the water remediation company sued her insurance company over what she considered excessive charges. “Companies should not be able to prey on people during a crisis to boost their profits and increase insurance rates for everyone. People need to be aware of this abuse and take steps to prevent it.’’

 

Join the Florida Chamber’s Consumer Protection Coalition

This broad-based coalition advocates for changes in AOB laws, which currently allow unscrupulous home repair vendors and trial attorneys – often working in tandem – to take control of an insurance policy, then inflate the scope and cost of repair work and file costly lawsuits against insurers who dispute the charges. Visit FightFraud.Today and add your name to growing list of Floridians concerned about AOB fraud and abuse.

AOB Fraud Forces Policy Changes at Citizens Property

In Florida, there’s a rapidly growing scam in which shady home repair vendors pressure homeowners to sign away the rights and benefits of their insurance policies as a condition of performing work. This practice has led to grossly inflated claims and an explosion of Assignment of Benefit lawsuits against insurers, which is driving up the cost of homeowners’ coverage for consumers.

As a result, Citizens Property Insurance, the state’s largest government insurer, recently announced policy changes that will impact the handling of claims – especially claims for emergency repairs. These changes, which will take effect on or after July 1, 2016 for new or renewed policies, are designed to help curb AOB fraud and abuse.

Policy Changes Include:

  • The policyholder must take emergency measures to prevent further damage, and the policy includes only what is reasonable and necessary up to $3,000 or 1 percent of their coverage limit, unless Citizens approves additional measures.
  • Citizens can inspect and adjust the claim. Permanent repairs cannot take place until 72 hours after
  • Citizens has been notified, or the loss is inspected by Citizens, or verbal or written approval is given by Citizens property insurance.
  • These policy changes have only been approved for Citizens Property Insurance by the Office of Insurance Regulation. However, we anticipate other insurers soon might follow suit.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and its Consumer Protection Coalition continue to fight for solutions to AOB fraud and abuse – particularly addressing one-way attorney fee provisions.

Join our efforts by signing this petition, and stay tuned for additional updates as we continue pushing back against billboard trial lawyers.