BY REPRESENTATIVE DAVID SANTIAGO
Special to The Tampa Tribune
Published: January 23, 2015
Imagine this: You wake up to find your kitchen flooded from a broken pipe. You frantically call a water extractor who arrives and says, “Don’t worry. Just sign these forms and we’ll handle everything.”
The truth is, you’ve just signed away control of your insurance claim and may have permitted unscrupulous third parties to inflate the cost of the work. Ultimately, you could be sued or face a lien on your property for the difference between what your insurer legitimately owes the contractor and what was actually billed.
Similar scenarios are playing out daily across Florida, at a cost to homeowners paying higher insurance rates because of exaggerated claims.
At issue are claims filed under what’s called an “assignment of benefits’’ or “AOB” form. The form was designed to allow insurance payments to go directly to the contractor for work performed without the homeowner having to pay money up front.
Unfortunately, assignment of benefits has been abused by some vendors who intentionally keep homeowners in the dark about the nature, cost and status of their claim. Worse, when these contractors present an inflated claim to an insurance company, they sometimes use the AOB form as the basis for suing the insurer on behalf of the homeowner.