PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — A door-to-door scam targeting homeowners in Southwest Florida. According to several reports, some contractors are taking advantage of a loophole to get homeowners to sign over their money, and their rights.
It starts with the signing of an "assignment of benefits" form, giving authority to a contractor to make decisions with your insurance company on your behalf.
The push to get people to sign the forms usually happens after a major storm hits the area. Both homeowners who actually have roof damage and those who do not are targeted.
Since July, David Ivankovic with Dynamic Insurance in Punta Gorda has received 20+ complaints about roofers misusing the assignment of benefits form.
“They sign it over, and then they want to collect the deductible before the work is done. So there’s really no recourse for the homeowner in the instance that the work doesn’t get completed correctly,” he said.
Or, he said the insurance agency decides not to accept the claim altogether. This happens when there’s just wear and tear that could be addressed with maintenance, rather than a full-out repair. As Ivankovic has witnessed, some contractors jack up the prices, too.
“This roof should only cost $12,000 to do. They’ve got it listed at $35,000,” he said.
In that case, the homeowner doesn’t have the option to find a more affordable quote, because they’ve already signed over their rights to the contractor. They could even face getting dropped by their insurance company if they don’t get the roof “repaired” since the so-called damage is now documented.
Bryan Oglesby with the Better Business Bureau says fraudulent claims could affect insurance rates for everyone.
“Anytime there’s fraud in insurance that’s being had, that could be the cause of rates to go up for consumers,” he said.
The AOB form is a perfectly legal document, but Oglesby says as a consumer, you have to protect yourself from legitimate and illegitimate businesses who misuse it.
“You should never feel pressured to sign a contract on the spot if you’re not sure what it means or what it entails,” he said.
There are a few ways out of an AOB contract. Information from the Florida Department of Financial Services shows you can provide a written note to the contractor within 14 days of signing the assignment of benefits form. Another possible out is if the contractor hasn’t worked on your roof 30 days after they said they would.