June 3, 2022, Insurance Journal – Insurance industry lobbyist Lisa Miller, a former deputy Florida insurance commissioner, said at the webinar Thursday that the key to reducing fraudulent or exaggerated roof claims, or efforts by roofers to cover the deductible, is strict enforcement of the law. She urged state regulators to contact RoofClaim.com and let the company know that its actions will be scrutinized. (Original story location: https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2022/06/03/670161.htm )
RoofClaim.com, a name that has caused heartburn in the Florida insurance industry in recent years, announced that it is now offering no-money-down roof financing in the wake of insurance rate hikes, insurer insolvencies and underwriting restrictions.
One insurance executive said the financing plan is another method roofers are using to get around the Florida law that forbids contractors from offering to pay homeowners’ policy deductibles after a claim.
“It’s very creative approach. This is the perfect way to get around any deductible,” said Bob Ritchie, CEO of Tampa-based American Integrity Insurance Group, who spoke Thursday at a webinar hosted by Demotech, a financial rating firm. “They’ll file a claim, escalate the price and get a settlement above market.”
Company representatives did not respond to the allegation, but said that the financing plan may actually benefit insurers.
“RoofClaim.com views the new inhouse financing option as a way to help insurance companies retain their customers, while allowing homeowners to enjoy a safe and secure home – regardless of the weather,” Steven Houston, attorney for the firm, said in an email. “In short, we see this as a win-win for every party involved.”
RoofClaim.com calls itself a national service technology company, but it has become known as one of the largest roofing companies in the country and one that is responsible for hundreds of assignment-of-benefits claims against Florida property insurers.
The firm, headquartered in Kennesaw, Georgia, has so enraged some Florida insurers that the industry worked with state lawmakers in 2019 to block a multimillion-dollar deal to put the RoofClaim.com name on sports venues at two Florida universities, according to news reports. In 2020, the firm fired up critics again when it became the sponsor of a college football bowl game – the RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl.
“It’s a shame” that the bowl game officials chose to take money from “an out-of-state operation that’s the poster child for why home insurance rates are going up,” William Stander, director of the Florida Property & Casualty Association, told the Sun Sentinel newspaper in 2020.
RoofClaim.com is owned by Jasper Contractors, a Georgia-based company that operates in several states, the newspaper has reported. Florida Secretary of State corporation records show that RoofClaim’s CEO is Brian Wedding, who also is president of Jasper.
Since 2018, Jasper Contractors has filed some 657 suits against multiple Florida property insurers, according to records kept by the Florida Department of Financial Services. Most of the litigation is over assignment-of-benefits claims. One AOB lawsuit brought by Jasper in late 2021 against Citizens Property Insurance Corp., for example, includes the RoofClaim.com AOB contract, signed by the homeowner, as an exhibit.
It remains to be seen how much success the firm will have with its new financing program. The interest rate is set at 9.9%, according to the RoofClaim.com site.
And as of last week, AOB litigation may no longer be as lucrative for AOB contractors and their lawyers. Senate Bill 2D, approved at the special session of the Florida Legislature, and which took effect upon the governor’s signature on May 26, bars awarding attorney fees for assignees in AOB cases. It also ended the fee multiplier system used to calculate plaintiffs’ legal fees, which could discourage some law firms from accepting AOB claims.
The law also requires contractors to notify insureds, in large typeface, that the homeowner is responsible for the deductible and it’s a felony for the contractor to pay or waive the amount.
Another bill passed at the session, SB 4D, changed the state building code. Until last week, the code had required that, if just 25% of a roof surface was damaged, the entire contiguous area of the roof must be replaced. Now, insurers can more easily opt for less-expensive roof repairs instead of replacement.
The legislation also allows insurers to offer separate roof deductibles on HO policies – as high as 50% of the roof-replacement cost. That may encourage more roof financing offers that would cover the large deductible, insurance industry representatives argued.
“Regardless of any legislative changes, RoofClaim.com remains dedicated to providing top-shelf customer service and superb workmanship – backed by our industry-leading Million Dollar Guarantee,” said Houston, the attorney for the roofing firm.
The firm’s news release did not mention deductibles or assignments of benefits, but noted that the finance plan is a good option for homeowners who may be facing higher insurance premiums or those who have been forced to find a new insurer in Florida’s distressed insurance market.
Many property insurers in the past two years have refused to write homes with roofs older than 10 years, causing some policyholders to spend thousands for a new roof before renewing policies. American Integrity recently announced a seven-year age limit on roofs. SB 2D raised that age limit to 15 years, statewide, barring insurers from dropping homes with roofs younger than that.
“With inflation on the rise and supply shortages impacting nearly every sector, RoofClaim.com strives to provide affordable solutions to homeowners who may not be able to pay for a new roof out of pocket or who have experienced changes in their insurance coverage,” Houston said.
He added that all the paperwork can be signed and submitted through the firm’s website, RoofClaimFinancing.com. “Homeowners can sign all the paperwork on their own or our customer service professionals will happily assist them.”
One insurance leader said that the financing plan may, in fact, indicate that RoofClaim has seen the writing on the wall, writ large by the recent legislation, and “has finally gone legit.”
Others disagreed. Insurance industry lobbyist Lisa Miller, a former deputy Florida insurance commissioner, said at the webinar Thursday that the key to reducing fraudulent or exaggerated roof claims, or efforts by roofers to cover the deductible, is strict enforcement of the law. She urged state regulators to contact RoofClaim.com and let the company know that its actions will be scrutinized.
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