Hurricane Ian Recovery

Hurricane Ian tragically left many Floridians facing catastrophic damage or the complete loss of their homes. The insurance industry is focused on helping policyholders recover by sending all available resources to help customers and process claims. 

But homeowners continue to face risks after the storm. Fraudsters, unlicensed contractors, and other predatory third parties are canvassing damaged neighborhoods looking to take advantage of homeowners. Use the links below to jump directly to the following information to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Preventing Contractor Fraud and Abuse

Tips Before Considering a Public Adjuster

Property Loss and Damage Next Steps

How the Industry is Helping

Preventing Contractor Fraud and Abuse

As our community continues to focus on repairing, rebuilding, and recovering after Hurricane Ian, SOF urges customers to please be cautious when selecting a contractor or other third party to assist with the insurance claim or damage repair process. While contractors play an important role in the repair process and most are legitimate, there are others looking to take advantage of homeowners in vulnerable situations. By following the tips outlined in the ICA/APCIA Prevent Contractor Fraud and Abuse Guide, homeowners can protect themselves and ensure they are working with a licensed and reputable contractor:

  1. Be alert and know the warning signs. Be on the lookout for unsolicited offers to inspect or repair your roof. Be cautious of contractors who try to pressure you into signing a contract and require cash for a down payment or full payment upfront.  
  2. Contact your insurer first. File your claim first and let your insurer verify what repairs are necessary before signing any contracts. Then find a licensed contractor to make the repairs. Your insurer can help you identify licensed contractors in your area.  
  3. Verify insurance and licenses. Make sure the contractor you hire has liability and workers’ compensation insurance and check to see if the contractor has a legitimate local address. Florida residents should check the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) website to be sure the contractor is licensed and bonded.
  4. Get three bids and check references. Get three written, itemized estimates for the work and compare the bids. Require the contractor to provide you with references and contact those references to verify the work was done on time and completed in compliance with the current building code. 
  5. Check for complaints. Florida residents should check with Florida DBPR or the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed against the contractor.
  6. Never pay in full upfront. Most contractors will require a reasonable down payment, but never pay in full upfront and do not pay in cash. Make sure you have a detailed written contract in place before paying anything. Pay for the work in installments as the job is completed and use a check or credit card so that you have a record of payment. Verify that the work was done before paying the invoices. 
  7. Request a final payment affidavit. Prior to making a final payment, ask the contractor to provide a final payment affidavit, which they are required by law to provide, to verify the contractor has paid all subcontractors and suppliers. If dept remains unpaid, Florida law allows subcontractors and suppliers to place a lien on your home.  
  8. Get a written contract. Always get a written contract that clearly states everything the contractor will do, including prices for labor and materials. Make sure the contract includes clean-up procedures and estimated start and completion dates. Never sign a contract with blanks that can be filled in later by the contractor. Ensure you understand the contract prior to signing; seek assistance from a trusted friend or relative, if needed.

Tips Before Considering a Public Adjuster

It is important for consumers to understand that public adjusters are independent businesspeople that have no relationship with their insurance company or agent. When a homeowner hires a public adjuster, any settlement checks the homeowner receives will be made out to both the homeowner and the public adjuster and will require a signature by both parties before it can be cashed. Public adjusters typically take 10 percent of a homeowner’s insurance settlement. Hiring a public adjuster could also add extra time and delays in settling homeowners’ claims. SOF urges policyholders to contact their insurance company or agent before signing any contracts with public adjusters and other third parties.

To save you time, money, and headaches, before hiring a public adjuster consumers should take the time to get informed and know their options:

  • Check the public adjuster’s qualifications by calling the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) or your local Better Business Bureau. You can also use the licensee search function on the DFS website. Ask the public adjuster to provide references and call those references to verify they were satisfied with the service provided.
  • Be careful of individuals that solicit business by going door-to-door with aggressive sales tactics.   
  • Ask third parties about their fees and for a written contract outlining the details of any work arrangement. The information pertaining to a public adjuster’s contract is mandated by Florida Statutes. A public adjuster contract checklist is available from the DFS.
  • Consumers have the right to rescind a contract with a public adjuster for up to 10 days from the date of the contract by providing notice to the public adjuster in writing and sending by certified mail, return receipt requested or other forms of mailing that provides proof that the cancellation notice was sent to the address specified in the contract.
  • Be careful about authorizing anyone to work for you without fully understanding what you will receive. An authorization to review a policy may be a contract for service. 
  • Watch for potential conflicts of interest that may incentivize a public adjuster to delay the claims process. 
  • Avoid public adjusters that misrepresent themselves as being part of a government agency or being sent by your insurance company or agent. 

Property Loss and Damage Next Steps

The insurance industry is working around the clock to serve its valued customers after Hurricane Ian. Depending on the severity of damage or loss, SOF advises customers to take the next steps:

If your home is a total loss

  • The Additional Living Expense provisions of your policy will help you secure temporary housing.
  • If you own your home, continue paying your mortgage and property tax while the home is being rebuilt or the land is sold.
  • Arrange for your insurance company to inspect the damaged property as soon as possible. Check whether your policy pays replacement cost or actual cash value for a covered loss.
  • Create an inventory of the contents of your home. 

If your home is damaged

  • Make temporary repairs if it is safe to do so.
  • Keep all receipts for anything you buy that is associated with your loss. 
  • Make a list of damaged items. 
  • Contact your insurer to report all damage as soon as possible. 

If your home is uninhabitable

  • Save all receipts from hotels, restaurants, etc. 
  • If a covered loss results in your home being unsafe to live in, you may be eligible for additional living expenses. 
  • The Additional Living Expense coverage limit is typically 20% of the dwelling limit. For example, if a home has a dwelling limit of $100,000, there would be a maximum limit of $20,000 in Additional Living Expense coverage. 

If your vehicle is damaged/missing

  • Be cautious about attempting to start a vehicle that has been exposed to flood waters. 
    • If the water got above the floorboards, or the seats are wet, do not try to start the car. The electrical system is the most sensitive to water damage and trying to start the car could cause more damage. 
    • Open the hood and check the air filter, which is easy to find under the hood. If it is wet, do not try to start the car. 
    • Report the loss to the covering insurer, and protect the car from further damage by covering any broken windows, etc. 
  • If your vehicle is missing, report it to the police. 
  • Water damage to a vehicle is typically covered under an auto policy if the policyholder has chosen to purchase “comprehensive” physical damage coverage.

How the Industry is Helping

After natural disasters, home and auto insurance provide protection for you, your family, and your community. Insurers are there to help customers every step of the way during the claims and recovery process. Here are some ways insurers work to ensure the claims process is fast, efficient, and smooth: 

  • Insurers use innovative technology, like drones, that enable them to view damaged property remotely and offer faster response times in often-hazardous disaster zones. The use of advanced remote-viewing technology helps insurers evaluate and pay claims faster and get customers the assistance they need expeditiously.
  • Insurers utilize virtual tools for processing claims. For some insurers, the time from claim assignment to estimated completion for a virtually inspected claim can be more than twice as fast as a traditionally inspected claim, getting the check into the customer’s hands much sooner. Besides speed, the process also gives the customer a greater sense of control while eliminating the hassle of scheduling an in-person inspection.
  • Insurers also use technology that allows them to capture geo-coded, high-resolution aerial imagery hours after a catastrophic event to scope out damages to the property so that the policyholder’s claim can be accurately adjusted.
  • Many insurers provide links to customers via email or text for simple, one-touch claims and offer real-time video collaboration for more complex claims.
  • Unfortunately, unethical contractors and third parties have a long history of preying on storm victims.  Insurers are working with state officials and others to help protect customers from the increased risk of contractor fraud and abuse after Hurricane Ian.