Florida legislature passes new assignment of benefits statute

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Florida homeowners may be breathing a sigh of relief following a new statute passed in the most recent legislative session.

Trey Hutt, President of Hutt Insurance Agency, said, "Most people that sign an assignment of benefits really didn't even know that that's what they were doing. It's one paragraph or two buried in a two or three-page contract and what we found is that after the storm people were in a panic and somebody sticks a clipboard in front of you, you sign it and you go."

In essence, homeowners sign over their rights.

According to Florida's Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, this year there will be more than 30,000 assignment of benefits lawsuits.

Patronis said, "The assignment of benefits process prior to this legislation was really, it was exploited and perverted in a way that was not in the best interest of empowering the consumer."

Hutt said following Hurricane Michael many homeowners were taken advantage of because of AOBs.

"It's enabling bad behavior to be much easier so contractors who want to behave badly--it's a good conduit for fraud. The good contractors with an AOB or not are still going to behave well, are still going to do what they're required to do," said Hutt.

He also said when it comes to AOBs, homeowners have other options like a direction to pay which guarantees payment to contractors without homeowners having to give up their rights.

Some components of the new statute include a $3,000 limit for emergency repairs contractors can do without notifying homeowners.

Patronis said, "We've given the homeowner the ability to walk away within 14 days and then depending on how much work is done they may have up to 30 days."

The statue goes into effect on July 1.

For insurance help or questions about AOBs you can call 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.

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