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Your home flooded in a sudden downpour? Who ya gonna call?

Sun Apr 13th, 2014 on     Homeowners Insurance,    

In our last post, we were talking about a couple of bills that Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has been lobbying for at the Florida Legislature. One of the bills originally had a provision regarding assignment of benefits for emergency mitigation. The version approved by the Senate — and scheduled for debate toward the end of April — does not include the language, but it’s worth talking about.

The insurance industry might say the proposal would protect the homeowner from spurious firms trying to make a buck off someone’s disaster. Homeowners might say that the measure would add unnecessary red tape and would give Citizens more reasons to deny a claim.

“Emergency mitigation” is the work that has to be done immediately after the property damage occurs to prevent further damage. New homeowners learn quickly that some repairs can wait, and others cannot. If a few tiles come off the roof during a thunderstorm, the homeowner can wait a day or two.

If a pipe bursts and floods the family room, a couple of things have to be done right away: The flooding may have stopped, but the furniture and the carpets and everything else in the room is sopping wet.

Enter the emergency mitigation company. These are the people who come in and move the furniture outside. They turn on large drying machines; they tear up the carpet and disinfect the tile; they clean up the place to reduce the risk of further damage to the property and make it as livable as possible under the circumstances.

The homeowner cannot afford to pay the bill, but he knows that it will be covered by his homeowner’s insurance policy. He assigns his benefits to the cleanup company. The homeowner is no longer part of the claim. Anything that happens from that point on is between the cleanup company and the insurance company.

Where, though, did the homeowner find the cleanup company? Word of mouth or a Google search? And how much does the homeowner know about this company? These kinds of services are not regulated by the state, so how, in an emergency situation, can a homeowner make sure he will not end up with a worse mess than the one he wanted cleaned up?

Well, the provision in this bill would have provided the answer — which we will discuss in our next post.

Source: The Florida Senate, “Bill analysis and fiscal impact statement: SB 708,” The Committee on Appropriations, March 17, 2014

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