Assignment of Benefits started out as a great idea that would allow homeowners to rapidly make repairs to their home by assigning the insurance payout to their contractor. Sounds awesome, right? A pipe breaks in the middle of the night and damages everything on the first floor, or smoke and water damage from a fire would be put right in a shorter time than it might take conferring with your insurance company. Unfortunately, this good idea has been taken over by a number of bad people, and has proven a slow-rolling disaster for homeowners – outside of the premium hikes that systemic abusers have forced on the people of Florida.
A recent article in the Tampa Bay Times notes that between 2006 and 2016 AOB cases have grown from a scant 400 to 28,000 cases per year. It’s certainly managed to light a fire under the legislature, at least for the time being, as their constituents are up in arms about the prospect of a 10% hike in their homeowner’s policy each year. For anyone who is a new homeowner, the average Citizens multi-peril policy was $367 in 2011, and is a whopping $2,000 plus today. Fortunately, the legislators are also feeling the pain of increases and angry constituents so something might actually be done about it when the chamber reconvenes in March.
How to Avoid AOB Scams
How can you avoid being scammed? Your independent insurance agents has a few tips to help you just in case you need to file a claim.
- If you home suffers damage, call your insurance company first! They can provide you with a claims agent who will come to your home and assess the damage. Call them yourself – do not allow any lawyer or contractor to do it for you.
- Do not sign the assignment of benefits without reading it first. If you don’t understand it, then call your agent, insurance company, or your family attorney. You do not need to sign an assignment of benefits contract in order to get your home repaired.
- Being pressured into signing, or into using a particular attorney or contractor is a big red flag.
What Else Can I Do?
The best thing you can do is to share the pain. It’s easy to look up your representative and legislator, and then get in touch with them. Make sure that they know just what AOB is costing you and that if they don’t fix it, you will hold them accountable. The legislature has punted this one so many times that it’s a frank disgrace, and while they are making “do something” noises, it remains to be seen how much they will do once the lobbyists for contractors and attorneys get into the mix. The best thing you can do is to get involved and make some noise to your representatives. You are, after all, the people for whom they are supposed to govern. Show up at town halls, make calls, fax or email, and make sure that they get the idea.