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  • December 5, 2016
    Public Adjusters, we ask you to take just a few minutes of your busy day to view all that the American Association of Public Adjusters has been doing for Public Adjusters on a national level - not only in 2016, but in previous years.

    We are honored to serve as your industry's advocate, appearing at state houses to testify on your behalf and with regulators as we are advocates for policyholders to ensure they have the right to retain a public adjuster professional when such a need occurs.

    Please visit our website at www.aapia.org and peruse the many tabs that will clearly demonstrate our successes and accomplishments for the public adjusting industry. You can Join Today by selecting this link: Join AAPIA

    Whether we were opposing unlicensed individuals attempting to take clients from you or one of your colleagues in Maryland when an individual contracting company was distributing misinformation; (view)  or a certain insurance company in Florida notifying a policyholder that their policy does not grant them the privilege to retain a public adjuster; or opposing challenges in other states trying to limit what a public adjuster can and cannot do for their clients, these are just a few of the legislative challenges we successfully addressed this year.

    As we begin a new legislative season we want you to know that we maintain a daily analysis of legislation in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, each day reviewing and responding to legislators and regulators advocating for the license of a public adjuster and the rights of consumers.

    Our membership is what allows us to continue our work on behalf of all public adjusters those who have joined and those who have yet to experience our benefits and services. Our testimonials http://www.aapia.org/testimonials will share a glimpse of our members satisfaction with our work.

    AAPIA also offers Online Continuing Education Classes that are of a high quality and at a reasonable price.

    Please consider becoming a member today if you have yet to join,

    With your membership, we can do so much more in the coming year. 

  • November 7, 2016

    by Jill Henniger Bowman, Stockham Law Group P.A.

    Diaz v. Florida Peninsula was ground breaking as the first appellate decision that plainly permits a homeowner to dispute the scope of repairs before they are completed through Managed Repair.  Insurers likely anticipating the decision took note; and even before the decision was made started putting appraisal provisions back into homeowner’s policies to avoid pre-repair lawsuits over scope.  In fact, some policies only permit an appraisal demand if the Insurer exercises its repair option. 

    So, was Diaz a short-lived victory?  Does it now force homeowners who want to challenge the scope of repairs to dig into their pockets to pay for an appraiser and potentially share the costs of an umpire?  Perhaps, but the decision remains valuable.  Diaz may have opened the door to other kinds of pre-repair challenges that will give homeowners a fighting chance take back control over their own home repairs and keep out the Insurer for bad behavior or other misconduct or negligence (i.e. breach and anticipatory breach) where the conduct predates the exercise of the option.  

    In one case featured on WINKTV news in Ft. Myers, the unscrupulous conduct of the Insurer and repairer got the attention of Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, chair of the Senate banking and insurance committee. http://www.winknews.com/2016/10/04/homeowner-sues-peoples-trust-insuranc.... The best part was the Insurer’s response to why my homeowner client was repeatedly asked to sign a work authorization that said he was agreeing that the repairers’ scope of work would return his home to its pre-loss condition.  The problem: no scope had even been provided.  Take a look.

    Remember at least one Florida Court, in the context of auto insurance, has recognized there are absolutely circumstances that justify the Insured’s refusal to honor the insurer’s exercise of its “option”.  Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Green, 220 So. 2d 29 (Fla. 1st DCA 1969).  See, Justified Refusal to Honor the Insurer’s Decision to Repair, by Jill Henniger Bowman. http://www.aapia.org/node/562.   

    Exactly which “circumstances” justify refusal remains an open question.  Stay tuned on that.

    And, then there is always fighting the old fashioned way – after a botched repair job. http://www.abcactionnews.com/money/consumer/taking-action-for-you/it-is-.... In other words, filing suit like the Morales family in Tampa did after their “managed repair” went wrong.  Most importantly, the growing problem with Managed Repair is getting the attention of the right people – like Senator Benacquisto.  This is a critical first step toward putting homeowners back in charge their own home repairs.  Refuse to accept the status quo and let the chips fall where they may.  Managed Repair must go along with abusive assignment of benefits to right the ship for Florida homeowners.

  • October 5, 2016
    AAPIA BLOG:
    OPTION TO REPAIR

    THE BUSINESS OF INSURANCE?
    OR
    THE ART OF WAR?
     

    By Jill Henniger Bowman
    Stockham Law Group P.A.  

        Florida's Homeowner Property Insurers are becoming very protective of their Managed Repair programs and stand ready to issue denials as a way to strong arm reluctant homeowners. This seems especially true when Insurers use affiliate repairers or have a financial interest in the "Managed Repair Management Company" which finds the contractors who will take cut-rates to do the work.  Indeed, Insurers' insistence on forcing Managed Repair down the homeowners' throat has risen to a whole new level of absurdity that may bespeak a more nefarious motive.

        Take John for instance.  John had a fire.  John wanted to use a contractor he knew and trusted to do the work, so that he did not have to take time off work to oversee the construction.  For weeks, John argued with the Insurer and even offered to take the amount the Insurer's estimate showed would be paid to the Managed Repair contractor. He even offered to let the Insurer pay his contractor directly.  Still, the Insurer insisted that John use one of their Managed Repair contractors - Why?  

       Well, it's possible that the Insurer has assigned its Option to Repair to the "Managed Repair Management Company" and contractually obligated itself to place a certain percentage of claims with those contractors.  Ironic - right - given all of whining Insurers' have been doing about homeowners assigning their claims to contractors. See Homeowners - Hostages in a Hostile Claims Environment.  Can Insurers still call it an "Option" to repair then?

       But, there is another possible explanation for why the Insurer dug-in its heels when John's request would not have cost it one dime more than paying the Managed Repair contractor. What this humble advocate is seeing that may explain John's plight is a seedier underbelly of the "hassle-free" alternative Insurers are trying to misleadingly hock.  John's real problem may be  - WAIT-FOR-IT - he had the nerve to hire an advocate.  Would the Insurer have paid or allowed John to use his own contractor otherwise?  The answer may be yes!

       Notably, at least one Florida Insurer, routinely offers to pay homeowners unhappy with being forced into Managed Repair the inferior amount it planned to pay the Managed Repair contractor in exchange for a release - of course - coupled with a promise to report the naughty homeowner to 'underwriting'.  While others, seem to suddenly invoke the Option to repair when an advocate arrives on the scene. Yes, it's happening. Managed Repair is now being used to punish homeowners for getting help with their claim.

       Certainly that would explain the absurdity of the Insurer's response to John.

      This is wrong!  Let's be crystal clear - Managed Repair is not about protecting homeowners.  And, Managed Repair is not about fighting fraud.  At bottom, Managed Repair, however it began, is now a weapon of war being wielded against homeowners who dare to get help to fight for what is owed under their policies.  Talk about public harm. This takes the cake.  

      Homeowners' rights to insure, protect and repair their own homes must be restored.  Homeowners must begin to reject Insurers using Managed Repair programs which highjack their claims and usurp their sacred right to be the gatekeepers in their own homes.  It is time to take the "Option to Repair" out of Florida property insurance policies.   

  • September 6, 2016

    JUSTIFIED REFUSAL TO HONOR THE INSURER'S DECISION TO REPAIR
    By Jill Henniger Bowman
    Stockham Law Group P.A. 

    Just a few weeks ago another lawyer said to me . . . the property Insurer's "option / right to repair" is absolute! TRUTH OR DARE?  Does the law absolutely require Florida homeowners to submit to repairs being invoked or implemented using deceptive trade practices?  Do they have to suffer a completed botched dry-out, remediation, or rebuild before taking action?  Do Florida homeowners have to sit back and take it when corners are cut or inferior materials are being put into their homes?  When might a homeowner be justified in refusing to honor the insurer's decision to use its Managed Repair contractor and pursue a breach of contract action for payment of their claim? 

     

    Well, we already know from recent case law that the "right or option" to repair is not absolute when it is not properly invoked. Fla. Peninsula Ins. Co. v. Wagner, 2016 Fla. App. LEXIS 8262, 41 Fla. L. Weekly D 1279, 2016 WL 3065065 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2d Dist. June 1, 2016)   And, the Insurer is not the absolute determiner of the "scope" of the repairs.  Diaz v. Fla. Peninsula Ins. Co., 2016 Fla. App. LEXIS 8341, 41 Fla. L. Weekly D 1289, 2016 WL 3087811 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. June 1, 2016)  But what about other justifications for refusing to permit the Insurer to enforce its "option"?

        At least one Florida Court, in the context of auto insurance, has recognized that there are absolutely circumstances that justify the Insured's refusal to honor the insurer's exercise of its "option".  In Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Green, 220 So. 2d 29 (Fla. 1st DCA 1969), the court found that the automobile owner was justified in refusing to allow the insurer to repair when the insurer asked the insured to sign a scope related release though there was an indication of potential hidden damage. Applying this to the homeowner context - the option is not absolute when the Insurer attempts to use "the option" to pre-maturely gain agreement to cut-off available coverage.  But, what "other circumstances" will become "justified" remains an open question.  Here are some initial thoughts:

    • Unfair or deceptive practices by the Managed Repair Contractor;
    • Unreasonable delay in invoking the option or beginning repairs;
    • Wrongfully asking the Insured to pay out-of-pocket for covered repairs;
    • Refusal to provide information showing the Managed Repair Contractor is properly licensed, insured, and complying with all applicable laws;
    • Refusal to fully warrant the work of the Managed Repair Contractor (not pass-off that obligation);
    • Refusal to undertake a duty to defend and hold the Insured harmless or otherwise obtain a release of any and all liens related to the Managed Repair;

    So where does that leave Florida homeowners?  For now, Florida homeowners may be about to break new ground in the embattled arena of Managed Repair.  It's time to take a stand and show that unfair circumstances imposed on the homeowners justify their refusal to honor the insurer's "right to repair" option.  We must shed light on the problems with this onerous "option" even if it has to be done one porch at a time.   

    Indeed, Stockham Law Group P.A. has already filed a case challenging the enforceability of the "option" where the Insurer and Repairer use unfair forms and practices to cut-off homeowners' rights.  Stay tuned, as we continue to work to give homeowners back the right to repair their own homes.

     

  • August 2, 2016

    AAPIA BLOG:
    MANAGED REPAIR
    AN IMPORTANT VICTORY!

    By Jill Henniger Bowman
    Stockham Law Group P.A. 

     

        Citizens announced it is delaying the planned summer roll-out of its Managed Repair program until early 2017.  See, Citizens delaying managed repair program rollout until 2017, by Ron Hurtibise, www.sun-sentinel.com/business/consumer/fl-citizens-managed-repair-20160622-story.html.  And, more importantly, it appears that the program will not be mandatory.  THIS is an IMPORTANT VICTORY for Florida homeowners without private insurance alternatives.  Public scrutiny no doubt helped to pump the brakes on the plan.  The stories of several homeowners distraught and dissatisfied with their managed repair were highlighted in news stories featured in last month's blog Shedding Light on the Dark Side of Managed Repair.    

     

    Indeed, Citizens' move from a mandatory to optional program has the potential to trickle down and force private insurers using Managed Repair to make their Managed Repair programs optional as well.  This is good.  Movement away from mandatory programs would be a step in the right direction for Florida homeowners.  The true litmus test, however, will be the timing and nature of the disclosures surrounding the option.

    What Florida Homeowners Give UP with Managed Repair

    Florida homeowners should at a minimum be told that if "You", homeowner, select the Managed Repair option to save a few premium dollars now:

    • YOU WILL GIVE UP the right to select, screen, and hire the contractor of your choice, (translation - who comes into your home is now up to the insurance company, not you);
    • YOU WILL GIVE UP the right to say what the contractor should be paid to complete the work, (translation - the insurance company will pay as little as it can for the work and you get to hope they do it right and/or do it at all);
    • YOU WILL GIVE UP the right to fire the contractor hired by the Insurance Company if you are dissatisfied, (translation - the contractor does not work for you); and
    • YOU WILL GIVE UP the right to withhold payment from the Contractor for shoddy, unacceptable or incomplete work, (translation - the insurance company's approval and payment of the contractor is all that matters to the contractor; what you think is not relevant); and, most importantly,
    • YOU WILL GIVE US complete control over your home repairs even though our loyalty is to our shareholders NOT YOU, (translation - insurance company employees are paid to care about the bottom line not about your house).

    Though a bit tongue and cheek, these disclosures and their translations bluntly reveal the real world issues facing alarmed, discouraged, and frustrated homeowners dealing with Managed Repair across the state. 

    Two Cases on Point

    Bert

    Bert is a Florida homeowner whose Insurer uses a direct affiliate to complete Managed Repairs.  After a supply line to his refrigerator breaks and causes damage to his ceiling, kitchen, kitchen cabinets, and floors, the Managed Repair affiliate swoops in with its own agenda bungling the job and refusing to listen to the homeowner or his Public Adjuster.  More specifically, the Insurer's Managed Repair affiliate:

    • ripped out materials in the wrong part of the kitchen leaving exposed wiring with a small child living in the home;
    • left the affected area of the kitchen untouched and un-remediated for more than a week;
    • left water draining into an area where an electrical outlet they exposed remained openly accessible to the small child endangering Bert's family; and
    • refused to even test the ceiling to see if it was wet even when both the homeowner and the Public Adjuster requested the inspection;

    And Bert cannot tell them to get out of his house - Preposterous!! 

    As though the botched and dangerous beginnings of the Managed Repair were not bad enough, then came the corner cutting.  The Insurer and Managed Repair contractor tried to convince Bert to replace his wood flooring (that runs through most of the house) with tile only in the area of the kitchen and said they can "repair" his water damaged cabinets.  What happened to pre-loss condition?  Adding insult to injury, the Insurer wants Bert to pay out of his own pocket to help cover the Managed Repair.  Even though Bert has no control over what's being done to his own home, they want Bert's "deductible" to be paid to the contractor. Doesn't "deductible" mean an amount "deducted" from a payment - not cash collected by the bullying, bungling Managed Repair contractor?

    Ken

    Ken is a Florida homeowner who lives hundreds of miles from Bert.  His house was recently damaged by a tornado.  The Insurer sent its Managed Repair contractor to tarp the roof.  The Managed Repair contractor botched the job using a patchwork of tarps, secured improperly, which ultimately detached allowing additional rain water into the house on more than one occasion.  And, when the homeowner requested an adequately sized and properly secured tarp be used to replace the patchwork job done - the Managed Repair contractor said the Insurance company would have to authorize it (i.e. pay them) and refused.  Now the Insurer wants Ken to let that Contractor, who botched the simple tarp job, complete the repairs.  Absurd!

    Conflicts of Interest

    Bottom line, both of these homeowner's stories reveal the inherent conflicts of interest that plague Managed Repair - optional or not.  Florida homeowners should be fleeing from these unworkable programs.  This policyholder advocate certainly plans to continue to pound the drum, sound the warning bell, and reveal the truth.  After all, giving policyholders a voice by telling their stories publicly seems to be having an impact.