Complaints about roofer highlight loophole in Florida insurance law

State CFO tells I-TEAM Floridians are exposed to criminal deception

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter, Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects, Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An I-TEAM investigation is exposing problems with one of Florida’s most controversial property insurance practices, the assignment of benefits, or AOB. The law allows a homeowner to sign over insurance claim rights and benefits to a third party, such as a contractor being hired to do repairs. However, the state’s chief financial officer said a loophole in the law exposes Floridians to criminal deception.

Maria Rogers and Eddie Albert are northeast Florida homeowners who said they both fell victim to the same roofing company and have felt helpless since their AOBs were signed.

“It’s heartbreaking because you pay a premium, you expect people to do good, you want people to do good, and this is how they repay you,” Rogers said.

”I’ve got a leaky roof, I’ve got mold in the ceiling, my office wall, my bathroom, and I can’t fix it myself without breaking the contract,” Albert explained.

Damage to Eddie Albert's roof

Albert, a Marine Corps veteran, told state investigators that his insurance company wrote roofing contractor Kinnecorps LLC a check for approximately $9,000 in May 2018. Kinnecorps cashed the check the next day and was able to deposit it without Albert’s signature. Albert said Kinnecorps also billed his insurance an additional $4,500 for a mold inspection that was never approved.

Six months later, the mold is still there, his roof hasn’t been touched, and he’s legally bound by the AOB agreement.

“Right now, I’ve found another roofer, the roofer said he could have the roof on before Christmas,” Albert explained.  However, he said the AOB stated that if he broke the contract, he owed Kinnecorps 20 percent of the total claim or $5,000, whichever is higher.

The owner of Kinnecorps LLC, Roger Van Den Bosch, was arrested Monday, charged with five felonies, including insurance fraud, forgery and grand theft. State fraud investigators said he’s defrauded clients out of more than $50,000 by taking payments, including money from insurance companies, and not doing the work.

Rogers also went to state investigators, telling them her family was a victim of Kinnecorps. She said the signature on an AOB form does not match the signature of her 89-year-old mother, who needed roofing repairs after Hurricane Irma hit in 2017.

Roof damage at the home of the mother of Maria Rogers

“To my knowledge, it was not signed by my mother, no,” explained Rogers.

Rogers said Kinnecorps cashed her mother’s $5,700 check last year, and never returned to the home to start the roof replacement. She also hired an attorney who filed a civil lawsuit against Kinnecorps on her mother’s behalf, for breach of contract, fraud and exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

Rogers had a simple message to other consumers about signing an AOB.

“Don’t do it, it leaves the homeowners and businesses and consumers out of the loop,” Rogers said. “They don’t have any control of what’s happening.”

INTERVIEW: Maria Rogers' attorney, Luis Guzman on assignment of benefits

Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officer, told the I-TEAM that the solution for the state’s homeowners must come in the form of new legislation.

“These guys have found a loophole in the AOB process,” Patronis said.  “They’re being able to take advantage of homeowners, and this is the worst type of crime, you’re literally, you’re stealing and taking advantage of people when they’re at the most vulnerable time of their lives.  It’s a sad state of environment we’re in right now when it comes to this.”

Patronis said he will be working behind the scenes with lawmakers to reform the existing assignment of benefits laws, or eliminate them altogether.  He wants Florida homeowners to be protected by provisions like these and not victimized.

“I’m imploring to legislative leaders, I’d be happy to sit at the table. We’ll get the insurance companies, we’ll get the good contractors that don’t like these bad guys coming in and taking advantage of situations and see what we can do legislatively to give consumers some protections,” Patronis said.

EXTENDED INTERVIEW:
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis on assignment of benefits

Without reform, Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier says consumers' insurance premiums could rise an average of 29.5 percent in Florida over the next five years.

“We cannot wait any longer to address the systemic abuse of AOB agreements which continue to threaten the pockets of policyholders across our state. I will continue to make AOB reform a top priority, support legislation that addresses AOB abuse, and fight to hold consumers harmless," said Altmaier.

Florida Office of Insurance Regulation:
Assignment of Benefits

On Wednesday afternoon, the CFO’s office told the I-TEAM that because state investigators have opened up a case against Van Den Bosch, the two customers we interviewed can hire other contractors to repair their roofs and will be free from the AOB contracts.

Van Den Bosch’s roofing license was issued by the city of Jacksonville’s Construction Trades Qualifying Board.  At the time of his arrest, an online license search on the city’s website showed the license was still active.  As of Wednesday afternoon, the license was inactive.  The I-TEAM has reached out to the city to find out how the change transpired.

Roger Van Den Bosch

Van Den Bosch was being held on $105,000 bond.  He is due to return to court on January 9.

The I-TEAM has reached out to both Van Den Bosch and his attorney for comment, but they have not yet responded.

If you have issues with your homeowner’s insurance carrier, you can contact the chief financial officer’s office at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).  State employees can walk you through any challenges you are facing, including handling mediation between you and your insurance carrier, at no cost to you.

If you have an issue involving Kinnecorps, you can file complaints with the following organizations and agencies:

The BBB’s website also offers advice for consumers on hiring a roofing contractor in Florida.

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