Consumer eViews
FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 4, Number 1, January 2, 2007

Dear Floridians:

Happy New Year!

Earlier today, I took the Oath of Office and was officially sworn in as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, along with Governor Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson.  As the Chief Financial Officer, I am responsible for the Department of Financial Services, a vast organization that monitors state spending, investigates insurance fraud, licenses insurance agents and agencies, returns unclaimed property to Floridians, champions hurricane mitigation efforts and promotes fire prevention and investigates arson.  The CFO is the State Fire Marshal and State Treasurer.

We are pleased to bring you this special inaugural edition of Consumer eViews.  Consumer eViews is a weekly e-newsletter that keeps you up-to-date on many finance and insurance matters in Florida.  In addition to recent news and press releases, this week’s edition features pictures of today’s Inauguration Ceremony and our Department of Financial Services Open House.

My priorities over the next four years include serving as the state’s fiscal watchdog, insurance consumer advocate and a member of the Florida Cabinet.  I will review state spending and privatized services to make certain that you, Florida’s taxpayers, are getting your money’s worth.  And I will increase insurance fraud investigation and bolster the Department’s consumer services outreach.  My ultimate goal is to make state government work for the people.  

I offer to you my best wishes in the New Year.  I hope that you will contact us at 1-800-342-2762 if you have any finance or insurance-related questions or concerns.  The Department of Financial Services is at your service and ready to assist you.

Sincerely,

 -- Alex Sink


CFO SINK OPENS OFFICE DOORS TO PUBLIC FOR OPEN HOUSE

Alex Sink was sworn in today as Florida’s second Chief Financial Officer, and afterward opened the doors to several hundred visitors and well-wishers including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, former Governor Reubin Askew, former attorney General  Bob Butterworth, and State Senator Jeff Atwater. Sink was lavished with accolades, but she also gave something back – more than $20,000 in unclaimed cash that was being held by the Bureau of Unclaimed Property.

“That was a really nice way to start my new job by giving money back to people,” Sink said. “It was a tremendous day, and I thank everyone who stopped by.”

Visitors had the opportunity to meet CFO Sink as well as representatives from various divisions within the Department of Financial Services.

Representatives from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Insurance Fraud, Unclaimed Property, the Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate, Agent and Agency Investigations, Division of Consumer Services and the My Safe Florida Home program were on hand to provide visitors information about the activities and responsibilities of their offices and responsibilities. The various divisions had video and visual displays highlighting their duties and accomplishments for the department.

The Bureau of Unclaimed Property’s display was a particularly popular spot as people stopped by to have their names checked against the bureau’s database of more than $1 billion in unclaimed cash and property. Several visitors were pleasantly surprised to find cash in their names – more than $20,000 in all was found for visitors. The biggest claim was for $11,900. Stuart Buchanan, a real estate
attorney from Winter Park, said the money is proceeds from a mutual fund held by his grandfather, Howard Buchanan. He said the money will be split with a cousin and an aunt.

“It made the visit even more special,” Buchanan said.
 


TO TORNADO VICTIMS: STATE’S STORM HOTLINE READY TO ASSIST

Florida’s chief financial officer urged residents whose homes or businesses were damaged on Christmas day by tornados that struck several Central Florida counties to call the Department of Financial Services’ storm hotline at 1-800-22-STORM if they need help filing an insurance claim or checking the licensure of an adjuster.

A powerful storm spawned tornados that damaged numerous homes and businesses in several counties including Columbia, Lake, Pasco and Volusia. 

Consumer specialists are available to help answer questions about insurance adjusters or what steps to take before an adjuster arrives.  The department especially urges residents to be particularly wary if any adjuster or contractor who demands cash and to read and understand contracts before signing.

It is recommended that property owners take the following actions if they suffered damage:

  • Make emergency repairs to protect from further damage, document the damage and repairs in writing, and with receipts and photos.
  • Immediately report property damage to your insurance agent and company.
  • Gather copies of your household inventory and other documentation, including photos.  This will assist the adjuster in assessing the value of the destroyed property.
  • If you must leave your home because of the damage, let your agent or insurance company know your temporary forwarding address and phone number.
  • Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses. Hire licensed and reputable service people. 
  • If considering the assistance of a public insurance adjuster, verify that they are licensed by calling the department’s storm hotline.
  • Be sure you understand how much a public insurance adjuster is charging and what services are included before signing any contract.

PUBLIC ADJUSTER FEES CAPPED TO PROTECT TORNADO VICTIMS

The Department of Financial Services is advising that due to Governor Bush’s declaration of a state of emergency in Pasco, Volusia, Lake and Columbia counties as a result of widespread damage from tornadoes that struck on Monday the maximum fee that public adjusters can charge for tornado victims in those counties is capped at 10 percent of the claim payment.   Furthermore, public adjusters are prohibited from demanding or accepting any type of advance fees, retainers, or other compensation prior to any payment being made on the claim.

A new rule, which went into effect on September 3, 2006, triggers these consumer protections when the governor declares a state of emergency.  Under the new rule, the fee cap will not expire for tornado victims regardless of when they may enter a public adjuster contract for a claim related to damages sustained from the tornado.

Public adjusters are not affiliated with any insurance company and are hired by the consumer for a fee which is usually stated as a percentage of the claim payment that the public adjuster is responsible for recovering.  Independent and company adjusters work for insurance companies and do not charge fees to consumers.

Consumers should make sure they are dealing with a licensed public adjuster by calling the storm hotline or by logging on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com to verify licensure of any adjuster, and should also read and understand any contract before signing.

The department has activated its storm hotline, 1-800-22-STORM (1-800-227-8676), to help storm victims with questions or complaints they may have with filing an insurance claim.


Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762

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