As Hurricane Ian makes landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF) is urging Floridians to learn the steps to making an insurance claim and to be mindful of Floridians’ Homeowner Bill of Rights.
“This is a dangerous and devastating storm, and the first priority is personal safety,” said Michael Carlson, president and CEO of PIFF. “Once homeowners are able to safely survey damage after a storm, it will be important to document that damage and begin the insurance claim process. Contact your insurer immediately and be sure to work with a verified repair contractor licensed by MyFloridaLicense.com.”
Providing records of belongings and their corresponding value through pictures or videos taken before the storm can help during the claims process and provides proof of losses for tax or disaster aid.
“Keep records of any temporary repair costs, relocation costs and conversations with your insurer, adjusters or anyone making repairs on your home,” Carlson added. “Homeowners are obligated to do what they can to mitigate losses after a storm. If you leave your house after a storm and don’t take steps to mitigate further damage, you may find yourself at a disadvantage when seeking reimbursement for those losses.”
Most insurance companies will cover the cost of temporary repairs to keep your property from suffering further damages. PIFF urges homeowners to always follow evacuation and safety guidelines during this process.
Florida law includes several important insurance-related consumer protections. An insurer issuing a personal lines residential property insurance policy must provide a Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights to a policyholder within 14 days after receiving an initial communication with respect to a claim, unless the claim follows an event that is the subject of a declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor.
Homeowners have the right to receive from their insurance company an acknowledgment of the reported claim within 14 days after they have communicated the claim. Homeowners also have the right to receive within 30 days after submitting a complete proof-of-loss statement to their insurance company, confirmation that the claim is covered in full, partially covered, or denied, or to receive a written statement that the claim is being investigated.
“The Homeowner Claim Bill of Rights can help homeowners avoid potential roadblocks during their claims,” added Carlson. “It also offers guidance we want to help amplify. Contact your insurance company before entering into any contract for repairs, make and document emergency repairs that are necessary to prevent further damage, keep receipts, take photographs and confirm that the contractor you choose is licensed to do business in Florida. These steps help homeowners and insurers in the process of restoring affected communities.”
PIFF also warned homeowners about unscrupulous contractors who may promise free roofs or other quick repairs after a storm and encourage them to sign an “assignment of benefits” (AOB) agreement, sometimes claiming it is the only way to resolve an insurance claim without delay.
AOB agreements are not required for work to begin, and the AOB will actually transfer all rights under the insurance policy from the homeowner to the vendor, leaving the original policyholder completely removed from their own claim process. Legislation was passed in 2019 to curtail predatory tactics by some vendors, but Floridians should remain wary of any promise of free goods or services after a storm.
Floridians with questions or concerns about an insurance claim can contact the Department of Financial Services Consumer Hotline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (877-693-5236) or via email at [email protected]. PIFF has also prepared an infographic detailing the steps of a hurricane claim.