Volume 1, Number 41, October 11, 2004
Sadly, thousands of our fellow Floridians have not been able to rest easy because their homes have been destroyed or damaged and they are trying to rebuild. For storm victims who have been trying to work with their insurance company to get repairs started but feel they have not been treated fairly or compensated properly, I want you to know help is on the way.
I have created a new mediation program to give storm victims a way to fairly and quickly resolve claim disputes with their insurance company.
Any homeowner with a claim can participate in this program at no cost to them. For instance, mediation can help homeowners work out a settlement if a contractor quote varies from an insurance company damage estimate, or help decide whether a flood policy or a wind policy covers the damage.
We will have four mediation centers set up – the first one to open in Charlotte County – followed by centers opening just south of Orlando, in Ft. Pierce and in Pensacola.
To schedule a mediation meeting call us at 1-800-22-STORM.
-- Tom Gallagher
GALLAGHER CREATES MEDIATION PROGRAM FOR STORM VICTIMS TO RESOLVE INSURANCE DISPUTES
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced the creation of a mediation program to give storm victims, at no charge to them, a way to quickly and fairly resolve claim disputes with their insurance company.
“So many Floridians are hurting and struggling to start over. My goal is to help them do that by getting their insurance claims resolved,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Florida Department of Financial Services.
The mediation program, created by emergency rule,
establishes a dispute resolution process for citizens who need help with
resolving hurricane claims prior to pursuing other options such as going to
court. Mediation meetings will be scheduled and facilitated by court-certified
mediators provided through the Collins Center for Public Policy.
Storm victims can learn more about mediation services by logging on to the department’s website at www.MyFloridaCFO.com and downloading the “Mediation Program” brochure or by calling the hurricane hotline at 1-800-22-STORM.
MEMORIAL SERVICE HONORS MIAMI-DADE COUNTY FIREFIGHTER WHO DIED LAST YEAR IN THE LINE OF DUTY
This year’s annual Fallen
Firefighter Memorial Service, held at the State Fire College in Ocala,
honored a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue firefighter who died last year in the line
GALLAGHER URGES HOMEOWNERS TO DO HOMEWORK, READ FINE PRINT BEFORE SIGNING HOME REPAIR CONTRACT
As many homeowners across the state are rebuilding their homes, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is alerting consumers to be wary of entering into contracts for repairs too quickly before they understand clearly what their obligations are regarding monthly payments and interest rates. Consumers may be offered a contract in which they agree to make monthly payments for the home repairs and, in some cases, a mortgage may be placed against the property as security.
Before you sign a home repair contract, check out the company by calling the following numbers.
Contact the Department of Business and Professional Regulation at 1-850-487-1395 to determine if the contractor is properly licensed and if there are any complaints filed against the contractor.
Contact the Office of Financial Regulation, Department of Financial Services, at 1-800-342-2762 to determine if the home improvement company is properly licensed to enter into an installment contract and if there are any complaints filed against the company.
The following are important reminders for homeowners to remember when entering a contract for home repairs:
YOU are entitled to a copy of the contract at the time that you sign it.
YOU must keep a copy of your contract to protect your legal rights.
YOU must never sign the contract in blank – Write N/A on any blank line.
YOU are responsible for payments on your home improvement contract where a mortgage is being used as the security. Failure to make your payments may result in foreclosure of your property.
YOUR contract must include the name of the home improvement finance seller.
Homeowners also should know:
YOUR contract must be signed by the homeowner and contractor.
YOUR contract must include a notice of the right to rescind the contract within 3 business days.
YOUR contract must include the approximate dates the work will begin and end.
YOUR contract must include the amount financed, down payment amount and any difference between those two.
YOUR contract must detail the insurance coverage and benefits (if purchased), official fees, survey and permit charges.
YOUR contract must include the premiums paid for group credit life or other insurance, and should state which party is to procure the insurance (if purchased).
YOUR contract should not have a provision for a power of attorney.
Upon completion of the repairs, the homeowner and contractor must sign a certificate stating all work has been completed. CAUTION: Do not sign a certificate unless all work has been performed. Ask your contractor to furnish a release of liens against the property. Keep a copy of the completion certificate and lien release to protect your rights.
Depending on the length and terms of your home improvement contract, finance charges can be as high as 22% APR. You may want to contact FEMA’s disaster assistance program at 1-800-621-3362 for lower interest rates.
For more information on how to protect your hard-earned dollars, log on to www.yourmoneyyourlife.com. Consumers can also contact the Florida Department of Financial Services' helpline toll-free at 1-800-342-2762.