When you have a claim, particularly after a large storm, you will be approached by many different people, all claiming to be there to help you. While some may be qualified and helpful, be very careful about checking the credentials and experience of anyone who gets involved in your property insurance claim.
First, you will be contacted by your insurance company. It may be from the call center just advising you of the claim number and that someone will be in contact with you, or you may receive a letter from the inside desk adjuster with their contact information and advising they are sending a field adjuster. The field adjuster will most likely NOT be employed by your insurance company. They will likely be an Independent Adjuster (“IA”) who is contracted by your carrier to handle the adjustment. That IA will report to the inside desk adjuster, who will review their photos, estimate and reports and make a determination of coverage and the amount of your claim.
In the meantime, you will be contacted — dare we say, hounded — by myriads of other companies, roofing contractors, board up contractors, public adjusters and others. They will all tell you that they can help you with your insurance claim. However, in Florida, only duly licensed attorneys and public adjusters are legally allowed to represent you. Contractors are not licensed to represent your interests in your insurance claim and it is, therefore, illegal for them to do so.
One way contractors work around the licensing issue is to have property owners assign their insurance benefits to them. Property owners unwittingly sign these documents not realizing the ramifications to their insurance claim and ultimately, their home or business. These contracts are called Assignment of Benefits contracts (“AOB”). They direct your insurance company to issue checks to your contractor, leaving you out of the adjustment process and control of your claim and property. This leaves the property owner little recourse in the event there is a disagreement between him or her and the contractor. There have been accounts of contractors taking the insurance proceeds and not doing the work. While AOB contracts are legal in the state of Florida, one should have competent counsel review and explain the ramifications to you before signing.