“I’m Just a Bill. Yes, I’m Only a Bill…”
Having a fire or hail storm damage your home can be devastating and overwhelming. That’s when you rely on your homeowners insurance company to get you on the road to recovery as soon as possible. However, there is an inherent conflict of interest for insurance companies that are in the business of making money. That goal is at odds with ensuring policyholders are fairly compensated for their losses.
Jeff Atwater, Florida’ Chief Financial Officer, receives thousands of calls from consumers confused about how to file a claim when their home is damaged by a storm or a fire. Atwater is pushing a Homeowners Bill of Rights that requires insurers to spell out to homeowners what they can expect when they file a claim. An article published in the March 31, 2014 Insurance Journal explains the bill.
This is a no brainer. Insurance companies should be doing this anyway, without being forced to by a statute. But the insurance industry has recruited representatives, like Bryan Nelson of Apopka, to stop the bill unless additional cost saving measures for insurance companies are incorporated into the law.
Big legislative donors, such as State Farm Florida Insurance Company, will only accept the added protections for its policyholders if a ban on assigning insurance benefits to contractors is written into the statute. Contractors are typically much more motivated to force insurance companies to pay what is appropriate than are non-litigious lay people. Removing the ability of the homeowner to assign insurance benefits to the contractor forces the homeowner to have to sue its insurance company in order to get the bills paid—a hassle most people would prefer to avoid.
Senator Joe Negron of Stuart had it right: the contractor assignment of benefits issue should be dealt with in a separate law, and the insurance industry should not be permitted to hold the Homeowners Bill of Rights hostage. It begs the question: Why don’t insurance companies want you to know your rights?
I can just see Florida’s Homeowners Bill of Rights now sitting on the steps of the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. I sure hope and pray that it will become a law some day!