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Sink Surveys Damage in the Big Bend Area, Offers Advice to Storm Victims

8/25/2008

CONTACT:  Jerri Franz 
(850) 413-2842
    
TALLAHASSEE- With Tropical Storm Fay now downgraded to a tropical depression, Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink surveyed storm damage in the state’s Big Bend area today.  Sink reminds Floridians who are returning to their homes that the forecast for additional heavy rain may continue to pose flood hazards. 
 
“I’ve seen the damage from Tropical Storm Fay firsthand, and I know that many of our neighbors across Florida are hurting,” said Sink.  “They are picking up the pieces and moving on as best they can. Navigating the financial and insurance issues after a storm can be stressful and overwhelming and we want citizens throughout our state to know that we are here to help.”
 
Floridians with damage from Tropical Storm Fay are encouraged to contact the Florida Department of Financial Services Consumer Services Division at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO for help and information. Whether filing a flood or homeowners insurance claim, or securing a contractor and financing for home repairs, the CFO’s Consumer Services Division, with bi-lingual specialists, can help.  Information is also available on the department’s website at www.MyFloridaCFO.com, by clicking on the “Hurricane Season 2008” button.  
 
Since many homeowners may have already begun filing claims, Sink is urging residents with claims to verify that they are dealing with a licensed insurance adjuster by calling the department’s helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.  Consumers considering the assistance of a public insurance adjuster should ask for an estimate of fees, charges and the services included, in writing before signing a contract or any other documents.
 
Sink has already dispatched several of the department’s investigators and consumer specialists into storm-damaged areas to be on the lookout for misconduct and provide assistance.
 
“Storm victims should also carefully review the damage estimate and any settlement offer from their adjuster,” Sink said.  “Don’t let yourself be pressured and agree to it if you believe you aren’t being treated fairly.”
 
As the rebuilding process begins, Sink is encouraging homeowners to consider storm-resistant construction and materials.  More information is available through the department’s website by clicking on “My Safe Florida Home.” 
 
Residents considering a home loan to finance storm repairs should first contact FEMA’s disaster assistance program at 1-800-621-3362 to see if they are eligible for a low-interest loan.  If not, those who seek financing should make sure they understand the interest rate, terms and conditions of the loan. 
 
Also, make sure that the contractor you choose to make repairs is licensed to do the work.  Pay the contractor by check, keep receipts and don’t pay until the work is completed.  The contract should include at least the following:
 
• Signatures of both the owner and contractor;
• Notice of the right to rescind the contract within 3 business days;
• Approximate dates the work will begin and end;
• Amount to be paid, down payment amount and the difference between those two, as well as any fees for permits, surveys or other charges;
• Never sign a contract that is left blank in any area of the contract. 
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. CFO Sink also serves as the State Fire Marshal.