The Florida Insurance Roundup from Lisa Miller & Associates, is your program on the people, issues, and regulations shaping Florida’s Insurance Market. It’s the only podcast devoted exclusively to Florida insurance issues.  Lisa, a former deputy insurance commissioner, brings you the latest developments in Property & Casualty, Healthcare, Workers’ Compensation, and Surplus Lines insurance from around the Sunshine State. There is a Listener Call-In Line for your recorded questions and comments to air in future episodes at 850-388-8002 or you may send email to

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Episode 9 – The AOB Trap

Fort Myers retiree Sandra Carlstrom suffered extensive water damage to her home when Hurricane Irma’s 115 mph winds and flying debris left holes in her roof and outside trim. But a second – and more threatening – round of damage would occur a week later, when she received a glossy flyer in her mailbox from a contractor offering to perform a free roof inspection and repair all the damage. Three months later, no repairs have been made and worse, she’s been threatened with a lawsuit and lien on her house by the contractor – all because of an Assignment of Benefits (AOB) contract she signed with him.

Host Lisa Miller, a former Florida deputy insurance commissioner, talks with Sandra Carlstrom and her daughter Kirsten about how a loose temporary roof tarp unraveled a tale of deception and the utter panic they’ve been in since discovering the $191,000 bill sent to their insurance company for a roof replacement that should only cost $30,000. Despite a growing number of such AOB abuse cases around the state that Miller describes as almost extortion, the Florida legislature continues to be stymied on the eve of its 2018 session in passing meaningful reform to help consumers avoid “The AOB Trap.”

Front of flier

Front of flier

Back of flier

Back of flier

Show Notes:

Describing it as a “nightmare” that’s lasted months, Sandra Carlstrom said she hasn’t been able to get her home repaired because she needs to sever the Assignment of Benefits (AOB) contract with her previous contractor before she can engage someone else to repair the damage to her roof, facia board, and inside rooms caused by Hurricane Irma’s heavy winds and rain. If not for her daughter Kirsten, a skilled Realtor® who added contingency clauses to the AOB requiring their insurance company to approve all repairs, Sandra said she would have lost all of her rights and potentially face a financial disaster from having to pay for her own repairs.

Kirsten said the first sign of trouble was when the contractor refused to answer questions and told them not to talk to their own insurance company. Upon further research, she discovered the contractor was running his business from a UPS Store post office box on the other side of the state. Although the contractor seemed very knowledgeable and claimed to know (and play golf with) the head of their insurance company, a month went by with no repairs. Suspicious, Sandra and Kirsten contacted their insurer and discovered the contractor was attempting to bill $191,000 for what should have been a $30,000 roof.

When they tried to cancel the AOB, Kirsten said the contractor refused to do so and threatened with his lawyer to put a lien on the house. If they wanted out of the AOB, there were told they’d need to pay him $15,000 for the temporary roof tarp he’d installed and his research time. “He threatened us and coerced us and involved his attorney, who threated to sue us,” said Kirsten.

Carlstrom Roof Damage

Carlstrom Inside Damge

Investigator with the Florida Attorney General’s office are now on the case as Sandra Carlstrom continues her efforts to get out of the AOB and “The AOB Trap” that’s held her captive for three-and-a-half months. “Absolutely never sign an AOB contract,” she warns others.

Host Lisa Miller, referring to the Carlstrom case as “almost extortion”, notes that by any measure, AOB abuse in Florida is an explosive epidemic:
• Frequency of Claims involving an AOB (up 46% from 2010-2016);
• Severity of Claims involving an AOB (up 28% from 2010-2016); and
• Number of AOB lawsuits (from 405 lawsuits in 2006 to 28,200 in 2016) are all on the rise.

Increased costs equal increased rates by insurance companies, with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation warning that annual 10% rate increases on homeowners insurance policies in Florida could become the norm.

The Florida legislature, which begins its 2018 session on January 9, is attempting for the fifth year in a row to pass meaningful AOB reform for Florida consumers. The Florida House of Representatives has HB 7015 all ready for a full vote of its members. The bill addresses AOB abuses and enhances consumer/policyholder protections. The Florida Senate, which is where past reform bills have died, late in 2017 introduced SB 1168. It joins several other Senate bills.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

  • Lisa’s Tips on Avoiding the AOB Trap:
    1) Don’t answer your door after a calamity. There’s an old saying that “People you know come to your back door, people you don’t know come to your front door.” Those you don’t know, don’t always have your best interest.
    2) Don’t sign anything until you speak with your insurance company. And if you see the words “Assignment of Benefits” or “AOB” on your document, don’t sign it until you speak with your trusted insurance agent or insurance company directly.
  • Another Day, Another DCA Decision (from the Lisa Miller & Associates Newsletter of 12/11/2017)
  • Assignment of Benefits Resources & Consumer Alerts (from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation)
  • Florida Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights  (From the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation)

** The Listener Call-In Line for your recorded questions and comments to air in future episodes is 850-388-8002 or you may send email to **

Episode 8 – National Flood Insurance Reform

Congress is pushing into 2018 a decision on how to reform the beleaguered National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that 1.8 million Floridians depend on for their property flood protection. Congress must reauthorize the program as well, because without it, federally-backed home mortgages which require flood coverage for high-risk zoned properties could come to a standstill. But the taxpayer-subsidized NFIP is $25 billion in debt and still using old flood data and maps, with rates that don’t match risk.  Congress is considering reauthorization under a package of reform bills called the 21st Century Flood Reform Act.

Host Lisa Miller, a former Florida deputy insurance commissioner, explores two of those key reforms on this program: what to do with grandfathered properties that are still enjoying 1960’s-era premiums and riddled with repetitive losses, and how best to encourage private flood insurance market alternatives. It’s estimated that 77% of Florida properties would see lower premiums with private market policies.  Joining Lisa are guests Brian Squire, Managing Executive Senior Vice President at Hays Companies in Destin, Florida and Helen Devlin, Senior Lobbyist with the National Association of Realtors in Washington D.C.  Together, they outline what’s at stake for Florida NFIP policyholders and ideas on how best to balance flood insurance affordability with NFIP sustainability, without hurting Florida’s growing real estate market.

Brian Squire, Managing Executive Senior Vice President at Hays Companies

Helen Devlin, Senior Lobbyist with the National Association of Realtors

Show Notes:

The bill passed by the U.S. House would strip grandfathered NFIP rates after two future claims, with rates then rising 10% per year until hitting the current risk-rate. A third claim would raise rates 15% per year. The podcast discusses how this is meant to relieve some of the financial burden to the heavily subsidized federal government program, while providing greater cost accountability and sharing with those properties that continually have losses and keep getting rebuilt or repaired, only to have sometimes identical losses re-occur during the next event.

Brian Squire said the key to a more sustainable NFIP and one that encourages private flood insurance alternatives is to change the grandfathering provisions so current recipients can have safe harbor to move into the private market and move back into the NFIP without losing benefits, should the private market not work for them. He noted it’s also important that private insurance companies be properly vetted and with state regulation to provide needed consumer confidence to make the switch.

Helen Devlin noted it’s important to have a private market compliment to NFIP and that the National Association of Realtors has been working for years with Congress to make improvements necessary to safeguard property owners. Allowing portability of grandfathered benefits and more insurance options for consumers are key.   She also noted the rates charged versus true risk “are out of whack” and that better utilizing improved modeling technology and other advances will create better coverage for more people without “sticker shock” premiums.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

** The Listener Call-In Line for your recorded questions and comments to air in future episodes is 850-388-8002 or you may send email to**

Episode 7 – Irma’s Claims Challenge

Florida homeowners, businesses, and other property owners have been assessing the damage from Hurricane Irma and begun filing claims with their insurance companies. Those claims are expected to number in the hundreds of thousands from the first major hurricane to hit Florida in 12 years.  How are insurance companies responding?  How will they be able to meet the challenges of such an onslaught of claims?

Joining host Lisa Miller from the road are the president of American Integrity Insurance Company in Tampa, Bob Ritchie and professional claims adjuster Jason Evans, CEO of Evans Claims Service, in Huntsville, Texas.  They explain on this podcast how claims are being handled, why Hurricane Irma has stressed the supply of adjusters needed to handle them, and the ability of Florida’s insurance companies to pay claims.  They also share advice with policyholders and other consumers hit by damage and reveal how insurance industry best practices are being put to the ultimate test with Irma.

Bob Ritchie, President & CEO, American Integrity Insurance Company

Jason Evans, CEO of Evans Claims Service

Show Notes:

“There is no question that the industry has not been better capitalized, both in terms of the primary insurance carriers, but also the supporting carriers, including the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, Citizens Property Insurance, and the world’s reinsurers,” Ritchie said on the podcast.  He noted that because the hurricane weakened in the hours before landfill, “this is a high-frequency, high number of claims, and much lower severity, much lower total incurred losses event than what it would have been if it had stayed on the west coast and scraped the entire coast.  What makes Irma different is that the entire peninsula was faced with a direct hit,” Ritchie said.   He believes damage estimates in the range of $25 billion are accurate.

“Florida is much more a wind and water event than Hurricane Harvey, which was predominantly a flood event” said Evans, whose adjuster teams have worked Harvey claims and are now in Florida assessing Irma claims.  Evans said Irma has stressed the supply of adjusters to handle claims, especially coming so soon after Hurricane Harvey, but that there are enough adjusters to handle the volume of claims.  “When you have two storms of this magnitude, it stresses the supply of adjusters undoubtedly…but you have companies emergency licensing adjusters and bringing in additional people to settle these claims…we’ll get ahead of it and get everyone’s claim taken care of in a timely fashion.”

The program discusses the technological advances that are making the claims process easier and efficient for both policyholders and insurance companies.  “But nothing replaces the tender loving care at the first notice of loss,” Ritchie pointed out.  “It’s a people business.  When you have a crisis, people want to talk to a live person.  Where technology is important is that everyone is equipped to take the first notice of loss within a few minutes and to reassure the customer that they have coverage.  You have one chance to form the right first opinion.”

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

** The Listener Call-In Line for your recorded questions and comments to air in future episodes is 850-388-8002 or you may send email to**

Episode 6 – Citizens Managed Repair Program

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation recently approved two first-of-their-kind programs designed to help the state’s property insurer of last resort – Citizens Property Insurance Corporation – control the rapidly rising claims and litigation costs among its current 450,000 policyholders. Citizens will now be able to limit coverage on non-weather water claims to $10,000 unless the policyholder agrees to use Citizens’ approved contractors in its new managed repair program.  The company can also waive deductibles on such claims as a further incentive for its policyholders to use the managed repair program.

Citizens President & CEO Barry Gilway sat down with host and former deputy insurance commissioner Lisa Miller on the eve of last week’s OIR decision to outline the reasoning behind the program and the reforms still needed in Florida’s property and casualty insurance marketplace.  Also joining Lisa on the podcast is Cam Fentriss, Legislative Counsel for the Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association.  She and Gilway found common ground on some key Assignment of Benefit concerns whose costs, Citizens says, is driving its requested statewide average 6.7% homeowners policy hike and an 8.1% commercial lines increase.

Barry Gilway, President & CEO, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation

Cam Fentriss, Legislative Counsel, Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association

Show Notes:

“We’re not going to solve the problems until we get legislative reform on the Assignment of Benefits issue to curb some of this ridiculous litigation that is taking place,” Gilway said on the podcast.

Citizens is slated to lose $85 million this year because of the exponential growth in non-weather related water losses, such as leaking pipes, and isn’t the only insurance company suffering such losses in Florida.  The insurance industry has warned for the past five years about increased use of Assignment of Benefits by contractors who submit inflated claims on all sorts of work and then file lawsuits if insurers deny or underpay the claims.

“The Office of Insurance Regulation and Citizens Insurance have acted where the legislature has so far failed to act, to bring measures of responsibility and accountability to an out of control Assignment of Benefits system that is causing double-digit property insurance rate increases on Floridians,” said host Miller afterward.  She predicts that other insurance companies will now seek the same newly approved coverage cap from OIR.

OIR also approved Citizens’ requested policy changes that will now require contractors to submit damage reports and repair estimates, participate in appraisals by Citizens’ adjusters, and answer questions under oath.

“We understand the need for managed repair programs because we know there are abuses out there…so long as they’re done in a way that the contractors in the program are determined on an objective basis, we’re comfortable with that,” said Fentriss.

This Wednesday (August 23, 2017), Citizens will face some of its policyholders at a public hearing being held by OIR in the heart of “AOB Abuse Alley”: Miami-Dade County.  There, Citizens’ proposed rates would go up by the maximum 10% for the second year in a row.  It says AOB costs are behind its requested statewide average 6.7% homeowners policy hike and an 8.1% commercial lines increase.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

** The Listener Call-In Line for your recorded questions and comments to air in future episodes is 850-388-8002 or you may send email to **

Episode 5 Part Two – Growing Florida’s Private Flood Market

Aided by new state legislation this year designed to encourage a robust private flood insurance market in Florida, the number of companies writing flood policies has nearly doubled in the last year, while Congress works this summer to reform the federal government’s beleaguered National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Meanwhile, new technology is making structures more resilient than ever to floodwaters, allowing those insurers to more accurately price risk and compete with the NFIP.

Mike Graham of Smart Vent Products has been working with modeling firms that are part of the new technology and shares with Lisa in this program how flood vents, dry proofing, and other mitigation options are lowering flood risks and with them,  policy premiums by up to 80%.  Just as wind mitigation years ago helped lower homeowners and wind insurance rates, today’s flood mitigation techniques can lower private flood insurance rates, making flood coverage more affordable – and available – for everyone.

Show Notes

Actuarial experts, disaster modelers, and third-party vendors are utilizing new technology to better predict and price flood risk.  Models are important because the NFIP and parent FEMA don’t use models – they use only maps.  But models help differentiate the flood risk between a property owner in Zone X with mitigation vs. another person in Zone X without mitigation – with premiums priced accordingly by the growing number of private flood insurers entering the marketplace.

Mike Graham of Smart Vent Products shares his experience on some of the newest mitigation technologies and practices, including vents that allow flood waters to wash into – and back out of – structures, minimizing damage.  A study of a two-square mile area in New Jersey that suffered $1.2 million in flood claims losses showed through modeling how pre-mitigation would have eliminated the structural damage and reduced the entire area’s flood height by one inch, which while it doesn’t sound like much, equates to a $20,000 cost avoidance per claim according to FEMA.  Mitigation measures also help eliminate the need for retention ponds.  FEMA estimates that for every $1 spent on pre-event mitigation, $4 is saved in insurance claims.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode

** The Listener Call-In Line for your recorded questions and comments to air in future episodes is 850-388-8002 or you may send email to**

Episode 5 Part One – Growing Florida’s Private Flood Market

Just in time for the start of hurricane season, the Florida Legislature has made it even easier for private insurance companies to write flood coverage in the Sunshine State.  The private market is seen as a much-needed alternative to the debt-ridden, increasingly expensive, federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).   Even more so for Florida consumers, who are largely subsidizing the program, receiving just $1 in claims benefits for every $4 paid in premiums.

Host Lisa Miller, a former Florida deputy insurance commissioner, breaks down how private carriers are being encouraged and we hear state Senator Jeff Brandes’ ideas on how Florida’s private market can work hand-in-hand with the NFIP.  With less than 90 days remaining until the beleaguered NFIP expires, the U.S. House is making progress toward a series of reforms designed to tackle the programs $24.6 billion in debt and improve access and affordability for homeowners.  One fix would expand mandatory flood insurance to most U.S. homeowners – just like the Affordable Care Act on the health insurance side – to subsidize the NFIP going forward.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

The Listener Call-In Line for your recorded questions and comments to air in future episodes is 850-388-8002 or you may send email to

Episode 4 – Legislative Session Roundup

The Florida Legislature ended its 2017 session this week three days late – and without passing most of the major insurance-related bills.  These include Assignment of Benefits reform, Workers’ Compensation reform as mandated by the state Supreme Court, and No-Fault Personal Injury Protection automobile insurance reform.  What went wrong?  Host Lisa Miller, a former Florida deputy insurance commissioner, takes the guest microphone in this program to explain what happened, share the backstory on some of the negotiations, and offer her insight on what’s needed to make these policy reforms a reality in next year’s legislative session.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Episode 3 – Bad Faith

The Florida Legislature is once again trying to decide what to do with the state’s 45 year-old No-Fault Automobile Insurance coverage law – more specifically, how to handle the persistent fraud that keeps increasing and with it, automobile insurance rates.  But one component that’s rarely talked about is the Bad Faith doctrine – and the third-party vendors some say who are manipulating it to win bigger legal settlements from insurance companies.

David Bronstein and J.D. Underwood – two noted South Florida insurance attorneys on opposite sides of the issue – argue the merits of Bad Faith as it relates to consumer rights and insurance company profits.  They reveal in this program how just the threat of a Bad Faith case and its related costs are driving up premiums for all Florida insurance consumers.  They share their insider perspective on how those looking to make a bigger buck rather than a reasonable claims settlement are hurting the availability and affordability of automobile, as well as homeowners insurance in Florida.

As the legislature considers bills replacing No-Fault PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance with mandatory Bodily Injury insurance (BI) – where Bad Faith claims are more prevalent than PIP claims and can result in large verdicts beyond the policy coverage limits –  insurance companies want added provisions to require mandatory civil remedy notice by third-party claimants to level the playing field.

David Bronstein

David Bronstein of Bronstein & Carmona

J. D. Underwood

J.D. Underwood of Florida Advocates









Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Episode 2 – The Abusive Roofer

They come to your house peddling offers of a free roof, courtesy of your insurance company.  Regardless of whether you’ve suffered serious enough storm damage to warrant a total roof replacement, these scam artists have you sign an “AOB”– an Assignment of Benefits – that takes away your rights and benefits of insurance claims proceeds and puts it into their pockets.  That’s what happened to Kellie Clark, a ninth-grade math teacher in Pinellas County, Florida.  Ms. Clark shares her story of being misled into signing an AOB and then becoming the target of bullying and harassment – including threats of foreclosure action – when she refused to sign over the insurance check.   It’s a growing problem in Florida that has caused double-digit rate increases and whose solution is still eluding the Florida Legislature.

Kellie Clark

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Kellie Clark Timeline of AOB with Simbro Group

Simbro Group Letter of AOB





Episode 1 – Beating Back Flood Rates

Although Florida accounts for nearly 40% of the National Flood Insurance Program policies, it remains a huge donor state to this federal monopoly, with property owners here paying $4 in premiums for every $1 in claims received. Maria Wells, President of Florida Realtors, has been a driving force behind efforts to encourage a private flood market in the Sunshine State. Ms. Wells shares her advocacy efforts in this podcast and how reauthorization of NFIP this year in Congress is being linked to further incentives to create a robust private market alternative that will benefit property owners and taxpayers alike.