Crucial Law Update on Your Homeowner’s Insurance Claims

Last week was a crucial week in the area of homeowner’s property claims and the ever changing laws in this area.

There were two decisions and a key Bill which passed the Florida legislature that you should be aware of when dealing with a homeowner’s insurance company for a loss suffered at your property.

The Third District Court of Appeals released the two opinions:

  1. Alvarez v. State Farm Florida Insurance Company 3D17-2261 states that if a Homeowner is found to have intentionally misrepresented to their insurance company the amount or type of damage pursuant to a covered loss, coverage for the loss could be void. In this case, the Homeowner experienced kitchen drain problems which were repaired. The water continued to backup and not drain properly. However, the Homeowner reported that there was no actual water damage to the Property. Subsequently, the Homeowner sued the insurance company for water damage. It was found by a jury that the Homeowner intentionally misrepresented that there was water damage, and thus, coverage was voided for the loss and the Homeowner could not recover for the damage.
  2. Safepoint Insurance Company v. Daisy Sousa 3D18-1842 states that a failure to comply with post-loss conditions could waive your right to appraisal. In this case, the Homeowner failed to submit a sworn proof of loss within the required time frame. Upon filing suit, the Homeowner moved to compel appraisal. The trial court granted the Homeowner’s request, but the appellate court reversed that decision indicating that the Homeowner’s failure to submit a sworn proof of loss prior to her Examination Under Oath or prior to filing a lawsuit constituted a failure to comply with conditions precedent. Thus, appraisal and suit are both premature.

HB 7065 – the Insurance Assignment Agreements bill is effective July 1, 2019 and is perhaps one of the worst pieces of legislature as it relates to policy holders and their rights pursuant to homeowner’s insurance policies.

Most residential homeowner’s insurance policies require that homeowners mitigate their damages after a loss occurs to their home. In other words, they have to ensure that the damage to their home does not get worse. Common damages in Florida to homes are related to water damage. In effect, this means that when your home is damaged by water, you, the homeowner, have a responsibility to remove the water, dry the property as best as you can, and ensure the water doesn’t spread and cause mold growth.

Emergency water mitigation service companies (“EMS companies”) do just this. EMS companies respond immediately, they go to properties which are damaged by water with large industrial driers, water meters, and other equipment to ensure the property is dry.

As a service to homeowner’s who are in a tough financial spot and waiting on their homeowner’s insurance company to pay for the loss, EMS companies ask that homeowner’s sign an Assignment of Benefits (“AOB”) allowing the EMS company to bill the homeowner’s insurance company directly for the EMS services.

This new Bill is attempting to do away with this practice. It caps the EMS companies at an unreasonably low number to complete their services. It requires that AOBs jump through additional hoops to get paid by the insurance companies at all. And, it makes it near impossible for AOBs to hire an attorney to sue the insurance companies for non-payment, unless the AOB companies pay out of pocket, which would not be cost effective for the low capped pricing.
It will now become common that homeowners will have to pay out of pocket for mitigation services, prior to the insurance company even coming to evaluate the claim, let alone determine coverage. So the homeowner’s insurance that you pay for, as a requirement of holding a mortgage on your property, will cover less of the mitigation efforts you’re required to make and less of actual damages to your home.

If you suffer a water loss at your home, and need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation at (561) 279-6771 or by email at info@rinafeldpa.com.

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