Homeowner stuck with large restoration bill despite state reforms meant to help consumers

Video: Homeowner stuck with large restoration bill, even with state reforms meant to help consumers

CLERMONT, Fla. — A Clermont woman thought a restoration contractor’s bill that charged $12,000 was a mistake. Her insurance company refused to pay most of it, and she was stuck paying thousands after a state law meant to reduce insurance costs, didn’t protect her.

“There’s the leak, there’s the pinhole right there,” said Allison Holder.

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She showed Action 9′s Todd Ulrich the water pipe that was leaking inside a wall. When her wood floors started warping, Holder called a plumber who discovered the leak and recommended a restoration contractor to remove damages and dry out the house.

Holder said she signed with All American Water Restoration. “They sounded like they were going to take care of it. We’ll do everything for me, going to clean it up. No problem and don’t worry.”

The restoration company removed damaged flooring, used de-humidifiers, and applied mold prevention. Then Holder got the bill, total cost was more than $12,000.

“I thought it was a typo. I thought it was a decimal point off or something,” Holder said.

Her homeowner’s insurance, United Property and Casualty, would only cover $3,700. The insurance company sent Holder a peer review of the contractor’s bill that claimed she was overcharged more than $8,400. The review said the contractor overbilled for time and materials based on industry standards and the procedure failed to dry out the home.

“It’s as though they won the insurance lottery, and they could just bill for everything they wanted,” Holder said.

Holder says the contractor demanded she pay an additional $6,000 then placed a lien against her home to collect.

Just last year, Florida’s legislature approved assignment of benefit reforms, preventing contractors from taking over insurance claims then inflating repair bills. Insurance experts say that helped control restoration billing abuses that increased premiums but now they warn homeowners could be a target.

“It’s certainly a tactic we have seen being used by some restoration companies,” said Kyle Ulrich with the Florida Association of Insurance Agents.

He says restoration overbilling now forces homeowners to sue the restoration company, their insurer, or just pay the bill.

“None of which is a good thing for the homeowner who was simply trying to get back to the state they were in pre-loss,” Kyle Ulrich said.

Action 9 contacted All American Water Restoration, that’s rated A by the BBB. Its owner said Holder delayed access to the home and that increased billing, her insurance constantly underpays for honest restoration, and he’s still working with the insurer and Holder to resolve the bill.

“This was so outrageous,” Holder said.

If you need restoration contractors after water or fire damage, consider contacting your insurance agent first. And ask for a written estimate before the work begins.

You can also challenge an insurance settlement you don’t think is fair.