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Insurance Consumer Advocate

Sha'Ron James

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Tallahassee, FL 32399-0308

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Florida homeowners, be wary of losing insurance policy rights under certain repair contracts

Letter to the Editor

March 26, 2016

Bradenton Herald


With the 2016 legislative session completed, the Florida Legislature has failed to pass a meaningful solution to the assignment-of-benefits (AOB) crisis that is now rapidly spinning out of control.

Organized and carried out by a handful of vendors and lawyers, this kickback-driven lawsuit-for-profit scheme is already punishing homeowners with higher rates and threatens to do so for years to come.

Legislation originally filed by state Sen. Dorothy Hukill and Rep. Matt Caldwell would have protected consumers by preventing a handful of vendors and their lawyers from stealing homeowners' insurance policy rights and using them to pad their own pockets. Sadly, these bills died when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla would not allow the bill to be heard.

A news release by state-sponsored home insurer Citizens Insurance stated that water losses in South Florida will drive up rates in the region by (the maximum) 10 percent annually for many years to come. In Miami-Dade County alone, Citizens projects a preliminary 2017 rate increase of 189.6 percent. (By law, Citizens cannot raise its rates more than 10 percent per year.)

It is important to note, of the more than 85,000 lawyers admitted to the Florida Bar and the nearly 6,000 trial lawyers, 40 percent of all assignment-of-benefits lawsuits involving restoration vendors in 2015 were filed by just five law firms and 57 percent were filed by 10 law firms. In total, 85 percent of these suits were filed by only 31 law firms.

Now, as a result, even without a hurricane making landfall, property insurance rates are set to skyrocket for all Floridians while a small group of greedy vendors and their lawyers get rich. Florida deserves better.

William Stander, Executive Director, Florida Property & Casualty Association TallahasseeEditor's note: By signing documents with an assignment-of-benefits agreement, a homeowner may be allowing the contractor to collect the claim settlement funds directly from your insurance company. This has resulted in homeowners losing control of the claim process and it could mean having to pay amounts beyond what is covered in their policy.