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“Abuses … no one should have to go through”: Barbara G.’s story of Assignment of Benefits abuse

Insurance Journal

Originally published by Consumer Protection Coalition   |   Read Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (March 26, 2018) – Last Memorial Day weekend, Barbara G. and her husband discovered a water leak under the kitchen sink of their Weeki Wachee home. The couple called a water remediation contractor, who looked at the leak and then handed her a document.

“Just sign this piece of paper and everything will be fine,” Barbara recalled the contractor saying. “I had never heard of an AOB – an Assignment of Benefits.”

So began an ongoing, 10-month nightmare in which Barbara and her husband watched their entire kitchen be demolished by the contractor, discovered they had lost control over the renovation process and experienced emotional distress over the feeling they were being violated in their own home. As of this month, they are still trying to finalize the job and put this terrible experience behind them.

“Barbara’s story is just the latest example of a Floridian who fell victim to AOB abuse,” said Edie Ousley, vice president of public affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which spearheads the Consumer Protection Coalition. “As AOB abuse has grown and spread, more residents are stepping forward to share their stories and warn others about the risks of signing an AOB. These are honest, hard-working Florida families who are being hurt by loopholes in state law that the Legislature can fix.”

To watch Barbara G.’s story, click here.

Barbara G.’s story is the latest in a series of video testimonials that AOB abuse victims have provided to the Consumer Protection Coalition. This winter, for the sixth straight year, the Florida Legislature failed to pass meaningful reforms to protect consumers from AOB scams, despite clear evidence of the problem.

AOB abuse is most often directed at home and auto owners who are solicited for such things as repairs for water leaks, roof damage or cracked windshields. Typically, the unscrupulous vendor persuades the property owner to sign an AOB, essentially taking over all the rights to their insurance policies. With the AOB in hand, the vendor often inflates the scope and cost of the repairs. And, working in tandem with a law firm that specializes in filing AOB lawsuits, the vendor often files suit against the property owner’s insurer if it disputes the bill. This widespread abuse is driving up the cost of home and auto insurance for consumers, and subjecting policyholders to legal action they never wanted.

Barbara’s AOB horror story began when she and her husband noticed a bad smell and a water leak under their kitchen sink. Barbara said she signed the AOB at the contractor’s request thinking it was only meant for the leak under her sink. A day later, the contractor demolished her kitchen, pulling out the island, breaking and removing her granite countertops and sink, and digging up the flooring. When her insurance adjuster arrived the following day to inspect the water leak damage “there was no evidence left,” Barbara said.

Things got worse. The contractor refused to tell Barbara how much he was charging her insurance company for repairs – eventually she learned it was more than $36,000. The contractor also wouldn’t allow her to pick her replacement cabinets or the depth. Now, “I can’t even fit a dish in,” Barbara said. Today, nearly a year later, Barbara and her husband still aren’t entirely through this ordeal – they are still dealing with final payment to the contractor.

“We lived through an unbelievable experience … of having no flooring, having promises of times they would be here,” Barbara recalled. “This is up there in the top five of abuses that I feel that nobody should have to go through … people come in and they just make a mockery of everything that you’ve put in your house … over a leak under the kitchen sink. It’s abuse.”

The coalition continues sharing the stories of AOB victims as it now focuses on working with incoming legislative leaders to pass true consumer reforms in the 2019 legislative session.

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The Consumer Protection Coalition is a broad-based group of business leaders, consumer advocates, real estate agents, construction contractors, insurance agents and insurance trade groups pushing for reforms to end Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse. Learn more about the Coalition at www.FightFraud.Today, follow the Coalition on Twitter @CPC_FL and “like” our page at FB.com/consumerprotectioncoalition.