‘It’s almost certainly a trap’: Roofing contractors use new tactics to control insurance claims

ORLANDO, Fla. — Action 9 uncovers new tactics some roofing contractors use to control your insurance claim that could cost you thousands and drive up premiums for all homeowners.

Replacing a damaged roof at her home near Kissimmee turned into a nightmarish ordeal for Helen McCoy.

“I thought it only happened to other people,” McCoy said, while fighting back tears.

She found a contractor online and requested help with a new roof installation that was delayed after her husband’s sudden death from COVID-19.

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“I thought my husband would be really proud of me taking care of this,” McCoy said.

Instead, McCoy said she felt blindsided by the owner of Timothy Parks Roofing and Construction. She says Parks promised to handle everything and to waive the deductible.

In the complaint she sent to state regulators, she said Parks wanted a public adjuster he chose to review her insurance and damages.

McCoy said she signed the document. “He said, ‘Trust me, this is just for the public adjuster to look at your insurance.’”

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Later, McCoy found out the document was a contract that gave the roofer and the public adjuster control of her insurance claim, and it stated she did have to pay a deductible.

She started asking about getting estimates and other documents.

McCoy said she was told, “He doesn’t have to show me anything. He never gave me an estimate.”

“Do you feel betrayed by this roofing contractor?” Todd Ulrich asked.

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“Yes, absolutely,” McCoy replied.

She says when she tried to cancel everything, Timothy Parks demanded a partial-payment penalty or he would place a lien against her home.

“It is almost certainly a trap,” McCoy said.

Just three years after Florida lawmakers restricted Assignment of Benefits (AOB) contracts, which allowed roofers to take over insurance claims, some contractors are using new tactics to take control.

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The Florida legislature found AOB contracts inflated claims, fueled lawsuits and triggered higher premiums for all homeowners.

Many insurance experts warn some roofers are using legal loopholes to do the same damage, such as teaming up with public adjusters from the start.

“You have individual contractors and public adjusters that simply go and knock on doors and put hangers on doors,” said Barry Gilway.

Gilway is the CEO of Citizens Insurance, Florida’s insurer of last resort.

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He says AOB reforms only went so far, and warns against new gimmicks to approach homeowners.

Gilway said homeowners might hear, “You know it’s not going to cost you a dime. I’ll just charge the insurance company for it. It’s free.”

The potential trap involves roofing contractors that sign up homeowners for public adjusters, loss consultants, or attorneys before the homeowner has a chance to contact their insurance company.

Another tactic some local roofers are using is a Direction to Pay contract, where any claim paid is collected by that contractor.

Critics say it’s another version of AOB abuse.

Insurance expert Tom Cotton said, “If you sign an AOB or a Direction to Pay, you’re done, the contractor then has full control.”

Parks did respond to Ulrich. He denied doing anything wrong and said he never waived the deductible.

Parks said the contract fully disclosed the public adjuster, the fees and that his company would do all the work.

Parks blamed McCoy for refusing to sign a settlement check he worked hard to obtain.

“I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t expect it,” McCoy said.

Don’t sign a roofing contract the first day. Get at least two estimates and keep control of your insurance. If you need to, you could challenge the claim later with a public adjuster or an attorney.

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Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.