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Lawmakers fight over ways to curb 'assignment of benefits' abuse

Lawmakers fight over ways to curb AOB abuse
Posted at 8:11 PM, Mar 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-09 23:22:19-05

DAVENPORT, Fla. — Another legislative session ends with bills aimed at protecting homeowners from rogue contractors dying before the finish line. ABC Action News I-Team shows us the devastating downside of something called assignment of benefits and why lawmakers seem powerless to stop it.    

Homeowners from Polk to Pinellas blame something they'd never heard of for upending their lives.

In Davenport, Darlene Masturzo’s trouble started four months ago over a water damaged kitchen.

The contractor asked her to sign an assignment of benefits. The AOB gave him control over the repairs and her insurance claim. The business ripped out her entire kitchen and billed her carrier 30K for work done in her 500 square foot mobile home.

Florida Consumer Action Network's Deputy Director Bill Newton urges lawmakers to reign in AOB abuse.

14 months after Wendy Snellgrove spotted a leak under her sink and signed an AOB she and her husband are stuck.   

The couple says only two hours passed between the time the contractor asked them to sign an assignment of benefits form to when his workers ripped out half her kitchen.

The Snellgrove's say Synergy Property Restoration never provided a quote and hauled away the cabinets before an insurance adjuster could inspect.

The couple claims the contractor billed their insurer $26,000 for a minimal amount of damage.

They Snellgroves filed suit against  Synergy for damages and the company countersued for breach of contract.

We caught up with the owner of Synergy Property Restoration. He did not want to comment on the Snellgrove case or any of the lawsuits they've filed in Pasco or Pinellas Counties against insurers.

2018 marked the 6th straight year the House and Senate introduced bills to curb AOB abuse then failed to pass either.

House Representative Sean Shaw supports AOB regulation but he opposed the last house bill because it would force homeowners and contractors to pay the insurance company's attorney fees if they lose while trying to collect on claims in court.

Consumer advocates argue those who have to take the case to court when an insurer does not pay legitimate claims will not be able to get an attorney to take the case if they have to pay the insurers attorney fees.

A sticking point that has crippled progress on an issue that could cost every Florida homeowner in the form or higher insurance rates. AOB lawsuits increased from 20,000 in 2010 to 100,000 last year.

The benefit originally created to help homeowners handle claims needs regulating but for now no solution in sight.