One thing lawmakers did away with in the special session is an assignment of benefits.
It’s when you sign over your insurance rights to a contractor or a third party.
But now, as one Cape Coral couple learned the hard way, some contractors have switched things up using insurance contingency agreements.
Tom and Susan Jackson, like many others, had damage to their home during Hurricane Ian.
“All of a sudden we started to hear that drip drip drip,” said Jackson. “The pool cage was up on the roof.”
And then they suffered another blow.
A contractor who they had requested give them an estimate on the roof tarped theirs, they say, without permission.
“He said, Mr. Jackson, I just want to let you know, I tarped your roof for you. And I said, what, you know, I didn’t give you permission,” Jackson said.
He had them sign this document, an insurance contingency agreement.
It gives the roofer permission to speak and negotiate with the insurance company on the owner’s behalf.
There’s also a line that says “in the event the insured decided to use a different roofer a 25% penalty will be imposed on the total sum of the roof payout.”
“We have seen scenarios like this play out throughout Southwest Florida since Hurricane Ian struck,” said Mark Friedlander, with the Insurance Information Institute. “Unscrupulous contractors are taking advantage of storm victims.”
Friedlander said he has seen contractors come up with workarounds to avoid changes in the law, like what’s happened with the assignment of benefits.
It’s certainly buyer beware at a time when many are vulnerable.
“Because they’re in a situation where they have a hole in the roof, they have to get a tarp on that roof, they have to get it replaced or significantly repaired. They’re doing whatever they can to get the fix done,” Friedlander said.
Attorney David Sholl said there’s nothing inherently wrong with this type of agreement, but you need to make sure it contains the right information.
“It’s OK to have questions, but you should be able to point to a part on that contract that answers those questions,” Scholl said. “What happens in the event of this … who was responsible for that? There should be provisions that explain those parts. You know, when I draft these, they can be anywhere from three to six pages, right? That doesn’t mean they’re complicated. It’s, it’s, you know, just it covers all the basic scenarios of what could occur. And it outlines who’s exactly responsible for what.”
The Jacksons ended up with a lien on their home for work, that again, they say they never authorized.
“You’re so devastated. You’re so, I don’t think when things happen to you, you know, that never happened to you before. You know, you don’t think clearly you just take bits and pieces,” Jackson said.
And they had to pay to get it removed.