As the community affected by Hurricane Michael starts to rebuild, homeowners need to be aware and protect themselves from companies that take advantage of people after a disaster. These are a few things to be on the lookout for:
1. Unlicensed Contractors.
In Florida, a contractor who performs repairs must be licensed and insured. Always ask and verify that the contractor you hire to perform repairs is licensed and insured. You can verify if a contractor is licensed by visiting www.myfloridalicense.com. You can verify that the contractor is insured by requesting to see proof of liability insurance coverage, also known as a Certificate of Insurance. Do not sign a contract or similar paperwork before you have verified the contractor is both licensed and insured.
2. Assignment of Benefits.
Some contractors and water/mold remediation companies may ask that you sign an Assignment of Benefits (“AOB”) in order for them to start the work. An AOB is a legal document that assigns (i.e., transfers) the right to make an insurance claim from the homeowner to the company. It also authorizes the company to deal directly with the insurance company and accept direct payment. Since an AOB transfers the claim to the company, you also potentially lose the right to file a lawsuit against the insurance carrier, if necessary. You should exercise extreme caution if a company ask that you sign an AOB.
3. Public Adjusters.
A public adjuster is someone who handles insurance claims for policy holders. A public adjuster must be licensed with the State of Florida and can assist with appraising and negotiating your claim with the insurance company. As with contractors and AOB, you should exercise caution before signing a contract with a public adjuster. You should verify that the public adjuster is licensed and check references. While not all public adjusters are bad, there are those that take advantage of homeowner’s after a disaster. A public adjuster will most likely ask you to sign a contractor that entitles the public adjuster to a percentage of the proceeds of your insurance claim. As a result, many dishonest public adjusters will inflate their appraisal estimates in order to maximize their portion of the recovery. It may also result in you getting less money than what you need to rebuild your home.
If you need help with your insurance claim, our insurance claims attorneys offer free consultations.