May 18, 2016
ABC Action News
A hail storm hit the Citrus County subdivision of Sugarmill Woods in May 2014.
Not long after, Carol Eriksson and her neighbors say a roofing company came knocking.
She and half a dozen other residents we spoke with say Hightower Restoration asked them to sign something called Assignment of Benefits in which they handle everything with the insurance company.
An AOB let's the contractor step into the shoes of the insured and make claims and negotiate settlements with the insurance company.
Insurance agent, consumer advocates and some lawmakers say AOB abuse runs rampant in Florida through inflated claims. And according to the Consumer Protection Coalition,AOB lawsuits involving claim disputes increased 90,000 percent since 2000.
Costs that get passed to policy holders.
Citizens blamed the AOB problem in its recent filing for a requested 3.2 percent rate hike for its customers. In Sugarmill Woods, 15 homeowners who signed AOBs with Hightower Restoration filed complaints with the state.
Eriksson says her insurer paid the roofer last July yet she's still waiting for her roof. The delay may cost her coverage.
Arnold Hodgson says his insurer also paid the bill in full last year and still no roof. We repeatedly asked Hightower Restoration for a comment. They did not respond but did begin pulling permits.
This year at least two lawmakers filed bills to restrict the use of assignment of benefits without success. Contractors argue the practice helps homeowners to quickly hire for repairs and prevents them from having to fend for themselves in insurance disputes.