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Florida official vows reform regarding how contractors are paid

Florida's chief financial officer (CFO) said he intends to work with the legislature to close a loophole regarding the payment of insurance money directly to contractors instead of homeowners. Jimmy Patronis said some unscrupulous contractors are taking advantage of homeowners who receive insurance settlements for property damage. He says they're allowing payments to be paid directly to the contractor.

Patronis said his goal is to either reform the current laws, known as assignment of benefits (AOB) laws, or do away with them.

His determination that change is needed stems from cases such as those recently revealed in northeast Florida, where homeowners said they signed over their insurance benefits to a roofing company that cashed the checks from the insurer but never returned to perform any work.

One woman told a Jacksonville television station that she was a victim of the roofer. "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," she said.

Another man had a similar tale. "I've got a leaky roof, I've got mold in the ceiling, my office wall, my bathroom," he said.

That man reported that his insurance company wrote a check in May for about $9,000 to the roofing contractor. He says the check was deposited the next day, but the roof he's been fixed and his home still has mold.

The owner of the roofing company recently was arrested and charged with a handful of felonies, including grand theft and insurance fraud. State investigators said he walked away with $50,000 without performing any work. He was held on $105,000 bond and is due back in court in January.

The woman who said she was victimized told the television station she has this advice for other homeowners about agreeing to AOB: "Don't do it. It leaves the homeowners and businesses and consumers out of the loop. They don't have any control of what's happening."

Florida has countless honest, hard-working contractors who will do a good job for homeowners, but unscrupulous ones unfortunately exist. If you have paid for work that has never been accomplished, contact an attorney who can help you seek justice.

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