A Sunshine State Town Hall: The AOB is Dead…Now What?

Air Date: 7-12-2019|Episode 553

An All Star Panel Weighs-in: Harvey Cohen, John Lapotaire, David Popper & Peter Crosa. Joining Radio Joe from South Florida, the Restoration Global Watchdog will be On site with a Live Audience!

Many in the restoration industry feel July 1st, 2019 was a dark day for Florida’s policyholders, disaster victims and those who service their emergency mitigation, drying, mold remediation, restoration and reconstruction needs after a loss or weather event! A Town Hall was held Thursday, July 11th in South Florida to address the restoration and remediation marketplace in the post AOB era. IAQradio will be covering the proceedings and key issues raised and discussed at the Town Hall on this week’s show.



An All-Star panel lead by Harvey V. Cohen, Esq. the founding partner of Orlando-based Cohen Law Group (CLG) will provide Town Hall attendees with a variety of options to service customers and protect their companies’ interests. The Tallahassee insurance lobby won the AOB battle by crushing Florida’s Fee Shifting statute which had enabled mitigation and restoration contractors to service Florida policyholders at their time of greatest need with the assurance they would be fairly compensated for the service.

Joining Cohen on the panel will be fellow Orlando-based attorney David H. Popper who specializes in contract law and on occasion will have an overlapping interest in an insurance claim that both firms are involved in. Popper will provide useful advice to Town Hall attendees on the use of legal agreements and forms Florida based restorers and contractors should consider using to be in compliance with state and local statutes and to ensure they get paid for their services.

Joining Cohen and Popper on the panel will be well known and respected environmental consultant (IEP), expert witness and licensed Florida mold assessor John Lapotaire, CEIC. John and his wife Lydia Lapotaire are well- known in the their home market of Orlando and throughout  the Sunshine state for loss evaluation, project specification and oversight, post remediation verification (PRV) and expert opinion when called upon.

The panel will be rounded out with the perspective of Peter Crosa, AIC, RPA and former President of the NAIIA the trade association for independent insurance adjusters.  Crosa is a frequent speaker at property restoration industry meetings and published author in industry trade journals. Crosa is well known for his marketing seminars for the restoration industry based on his book, ”Soft Selling Hardened Claims Adjusters”.

Moderating the Town Hall will be industry Adviser and Facilitator Pete Consigli, CR, WLS. Consigli is an Honorary Member of the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) and the association’s historian. Well known as IAQradio’s “Restoration Global Watchdog”, Consigli is recognized for his passionate advocacy for restoration contractors world-wide. Consigli will kick-off the panel by offering “A Contractor’s Perspective” on the issues based on 2 decades of historical data. History teaches us one important lesson, if we don’t learn from mistakes of the past; they are bound to be repeated!

The Town Hall is being Co-hosted by IAQradio sponsor AEML, Inc. Microbiology Laboratories and the Cohen Law Group. The Z-man is unavailable this week, so join Join Radio Joe and the Global Watchdog making his IAQradio preview as a co-host for this week’s podcast.

Joe manning the studio and Pete on the ground reporting from the field on the happenings from one of the country’s most important states to watch as the insurance lobby pushes its agenda and restoration industry advocacy groups battle back to level the insurance claims playing field for the greater good of Florida’s policyholders/disaster victims and their chosen “Restoration Contractor of Record” (RCR)! It should be an interesting and dynamic show with a live audience on the ground joining the watchdog and the all star panel from South Florida!

Guest Photos & Bios:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Watchdog’s Blog:

Elimination of Fee Shifting Statute Takes Teeth Out of AOB for Florida Contractors!

Introductory Comments and Show Overview:

The show opened with Radio Joe asking Pete Consigli to give an overview of the Town Hall held on July 11t in Deerfield Beach Florida. AEML, Inc. (an IAQradio sponsor) and the Cohen Law Group co-hosted the Town Hall. Sunbelt Rentals and Business Development Associates (BDA) supported the event with a networking table in the meeting room.  IAQA President Jay Stake manned a complimentary table in the meeting room.  Pete thanked  Jay for attending and put in a plug for IAQA’s convention being held at the West Palm Beach convention center next February 19-21st just a few miles from the Town Hall venue.

Pete explained that all the Town Hall attendees were required to sign an Anti-Trust, Decorum and Privacy policy statement before being admitted to the meeting. This document modeled after the not-for-profit industry organization policies ensure   compliance with federal law, civil discourse and assurance comments will not be taken out of context and posted on social media. The issues surrounding the change in the law affecting the AOB have strong proponents on both sides and passionate debate can often get contentious. Agreement to a set of rules allows for a free flow and exchange of viewpoints, what is said and happens in the Town Hall, stays in the Town Hall!

Radio Joe kicked off the interview process by going “around the horn” to ask the panel to weigh-in with their thoughts on the Town Hall and started by asking Harvey Cohen to talk about the AOB. This spurred a lively series of follow up questions by Radio Joe with and among the panel for part 1 of the show. The Global Watchdog took the lead for the part 2 interview questions before moving to the Round-up segment to close out the show.

Harvey: 

The Town Hall went well and the panel presentations generated some great questions from the audience. The purpose of the Town Hall was to educate contractors on the new AOB law and to give them some options to consider

The AOB has been used by contractors in Florida with homeowners especially on hurricane claims.This allows them to bill their insurance company direct just like a medical claim with a doctor.

David: Contractors’ loss of the use of an AOB due to the elimination of the fee shifting statute is not the end of the world. Contractors should use direct payment agreements to avoid the possibility of being liable for back charge fees to insurance carrier from AOB use. David’s colleague Justin Peterson. weighed-in those contractors might have to cut their bills by 50% to collect their service fees. In the case of an LOP being signed by the home owner with Harvey this can provide protection for the contractor.

Peter: The new law was written by people who don’t understand the claims process!  Recommends that contractors should get to know the adjusters in their area and learn to work with them.

John: Agreed with Peter’s suggestions and doesn’t see any change in the marketplace regarding the new law with the contractors he has been working with and espoused during the Town Hall during his panel perspective presentation

Restoration Global Watchdog:  Pete weighed-in at this point by saying a copy of the new law was included in a Town Hall attendee packet along with a detailed explanation by David Popper of the implications of the new statute and the options restoration contractors should consider in the post AOB era.  A link to the website for access to the AOB law (16 page document) will be provided at the end of the blog. Pete also said he’d include a pdf available for download by IAQradio listeners of the Popper 3 page handout which was collaboration with his associate Justin Peterson.

David: Recommends a simple one page contract that complies with Florida contractor statutes and is written in layman’s language so a homeowner will understand it. Contracts should include cancellation clause, pricing details with an option for change orders based on unforeseen damage and what work will be performed that falls under down payment or deposit allowances under state law.

Panel Queried on Urgency: The question of “Urgency” came up which under the new law which has certain restrictions and obligations that may expose the contractor to greater financial risk. When asked what urgency means and how would it be defined, Crosa said, “Who knows”, Cohen said, Who knows what that means and David suggested, “Contractors so use  language in their communication with customers that states that an event is “Not Urgent” to protect themselves.  This is a nebulous part of the language written in the new law which is still to be played out as to what it means. Unfortunately that will probably be something ultimately decided by the courts.

Harvey: The AOB language is also being used in the glass and windshield replacement sector.  Suggests that contractors to better protect themselves on residential and commercial claims should be comprehensive by listing everything that needs to be done from “A to Z”.

When his firm works directly with a home owner where the fee shifting statute still applies, attorney fees collected are credited back to the homeowner’s settlement amount.

David: Reinforced his message to restoration contractors be ethical and control the integrity of the scoping and estimating process and , to not worry about things they cannot control such as insurance coverages, nebulous language in the new law and how the market will react. . Stick to your knitting and make your deal directly with the home owner by using simple to understand and legal contracts.

Peter: When an adjuster that is hard to work with is on the claim, he suggests the contractor should secure the project to protect their interests and listen to their attorney’s advice in these scenarios. Adjusters can be passive aggressive, avoid working with these kind of claims reps and insurance companies that are known to have claims policies that are not “contractor friendly”! Reluctantly admitted there are carriers like that in the industry that he is ashamed of and would rather not take their claims assignments.

John: The AOB has been abused in Florida and especially by out of state contractors that poured into Florida after the 2017 hurricane season. His question is, “How do contractors who don’t use an AOB operate, survive and flourish?”  The fact is they have and will continue to do so if they follow the advice of attorneys like David Popper and an experienced Independent Adjuster like Peter Crosa! The beauty of the Town Hall was the AOB issue was addressed by various viewpoints.

The Round-up:

David: Good communication is the key. Poor communication demonstrates the inability for a contractor to prove they did a good job. Document the job’s progress with consistent and timely communication so you can defend your work!

Peter: Work with your adjuster, express a “concern” when the scope of work is not within the industry standard of care. Liked Harvey’s point of being thorough and writing a detailed scope of work. Be able to defend and explain the reasoning behind your suggested scope or work!

John: Under the AOB homeowners were often dismissed and felt left in the dark.  Suggests contactors should communicate with the homeowner and adjuster to get everyone on the same page.

Justin: Contractors should have a plan on how to work with the adjuster, have their attorney review their contracts before executing them with the property owner. In the post AOB era it is the “new” way to do business in Florida.

Harvey: Thanked everyone who helped support the Town Hall and appreciated the help of David and Justin with helping advise contractors adjust to the new law. He thinks the new law is terrible and questions the opinion that it will help policyholders. Admitted that he has a different opinion on the AOB than proponents of the new law. Time will tell what happens, but the Cohen Law Group’s motto still is, “it’s about justice!”

Restoration Global Watchdog:  Pete closed the round-up by characterizing a longstanding tenet embraced by RIA Certified Restorers for over 4 decades and capturing one of Marty Kings’ suggestions to restoration success he passed onto RIA members the year before his retirement in 2012.

Marty believed contractors tended to have a dominant company culture of being great marketers with impressive looking sales aids or early adopters of the latest equipment and restoration technologies. He felt both were important to a business success, but neither one alone or even together would assure a restorers success.

The key ingredient to success was achieved by the companies that could complete their projects on time, on budget and without delay due to “other emergencies”, and could satisfy customers!

Marty felt that the most successful restorers where the ones’ that embraced the spirit of the longstanding CR belief of, “Quality workmanship, fair dealings and ethical practices benefit insurers, restorers and disaster victims alike!”

On that note: Radio Joe signed off on the Sunshine State Town Hall highlight show, IAQradio episode 553!

Link to access and download the new Florida AOB Law:

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/7065/BillText/er/PDF

Note: A PDF of David Popper’s Town Hall key talking points document can be accessed here.

 

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