Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier is encouraging Floridians who are now dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and assessing damage to their homes and businesses to be aware of what they may be signing for repair work. A homeowner who has a loss may contact a contractor, water extraction company, roofer, or a plumber to assist with emergency repairs. After assessing the damage, the homeowner may be presented with a document to sign before repair work begins, which could also contain what is known as an Assignment of Benefits (AOB). If signed by the homeowner, it may give the repair vendor the right to exclusively communicate with the insurance company, negotiate and endorse insurance claim payments and file a lawsuit against the insurance company, with or without the homeowners knowledge. AOBs have been a cost driver leading to rising homeowners insurance rates across the state due to unnecessary litigation associated with certain AOB claims.
“As Floridians return to their communities and begin the tedious process of evaluating damages to their homes and property following Irma, it is vital that they pay attention to any requests that may involve an AOB,” stated Commissioner Altmaier. “Homeowners are encouraged to file a claim directly with their insurance company to maintain control of the rights and benefits provided by their insurance policy in resolving a claim.”
The following are a few tips to assist homeowners:
- Read your insurance policy and know what your responsibilities are following a loss.
- Contact your insurance company prior to signing any document that may contain an AOB.
- If the homeowner elects to sign the AOB, read everything carefully and do not feel pressured to sign it.
- Beware of language that allows all proceeds of the claim to be made to anyone other than the homeowner or the homeowners mortgage company.
- Do not sign the document if there are any blank spaces.