The Win The Storm conference was abuzz about a trio of Iowa cases that ruled void residential restoration contracts.1 The primary lesson to insurance restoration contractors is the promises made in contracts and found in advertisements may lead to contracts being found void pursuant to laws in many states. Contractors can expect insurance companies and possibly their own customers to challenge Assignment of Benefits and other construction contracts where insurance restoration contractors promise to provide services which constitute public adjusting.
As I have often said and written, insurance restoration contractors provide very valuable services, especially to communities impacted by large scale disasters. Those contractors standing up to the ridiculously low estimates made by insurance companies should be congratulated, as I indicated in, Restoration Contractors Providing Great Quality Workmanship Are Policyholder Friends But Many Insurance Companies Refuse To Pay For Quality. These hard-working men and women who rebuild our homes following a disaster should not be viewed as the enemy.
Nevertheless, the restoration contractor in the case publicly advertised the following services on its website:
Contact your insurance company to file a claim.
Inform your insurance company that your home was impacted by recent severe storms and your home was inspected by a licensed general contractor and areas of your home are damaged.
Inform us when the insurance adjuster will be coming out to assess the damage on your home or property.
We will meet personally with your insurance adjuster, as an ADVOCATE on YOUR behalf, and discuss the work that needs to be completed to repair your home to its original beauty and value. Your insurance adjuster will submit a report that will list the work that needs to be completed and a copy will be sent to you.
Send us a copy of the summary report put together by your insurance company.
Included in the summary report will be the itemized costs of the work that needs to be performed. We will work directly with your insurance company to ensure that all damaged areas of your home will be included on the report.
The court noted:
“Shepherd presented, and the parties signed, two documents, labeled “Agreement” and “Insurance Contingency,” whereby 33 Carpenters agreed to repair the storm damage in exchange for the Clausens’ insurance proceeds. The documents also purportedly authorized 33 Carpenters to act on behalf of the Clausens regarding the submission, adjustment, and payment of an insurance claim for the hail damage to their roof.”
The facts of cases are important. Here, the advertised services and contract promises seemed what licensed public adjusters promise and are licensed to do. Unless you have a law license or a public adjuster license, nobody can represent somebody else regarding a property insurance claim.
The court also noted under Iowa statutory law:
[R]esidential contractor shall not represent or negotiate on behalf of, or offer or advertise to represent or negotiate on behalf of, an owner or possessor of residential real estate on any insurance claim in connection with the repair or replacement of roof systems, or the performance of any other exterior repair, exterior replacement, or exterior reconstruction work on the residential real estate.
The case found the following:
We conclude that undisputed facts establish that 33 Carpenters, a residential contractor, was acting as an unlicensed public adjuster representing the Clausens on their hail damage claim against State Farm. 33 Carpenters’ contractual assignment is therefore void.
The lesson from this case is clear. Since forty-five states have public adjuster laws, contractors should not promise to provide services which constitute public adjusting if they want to stay clear of insurance companies and customers claiming that the restoration contract is void. It is tough enough to get paid fairly for legitimate work. My contractor friends should not make it more difficult by having contracts and advertising which will come back to bite them when the payments would otherwise be due.
On a lighter note, Anthony Delmedico’s Win The Storm Conference was a big success. I autographed a number of copies of my new book, Pay Up! Merlin Law Group attorneys Larry Bache and Jon Bukowski are pictured with me above at the conference and are now known not only for being great and winning lawyers but as our Page 89 Attorneys, where both are named in a book for the first time.
Thought For The Day
Building a baseball team is like building a house. You look for the best architects, the best builders – and then you let them do their jobs.
1 33 Carpenters Construction, Inc. v. State Farm Life and Casualty Co., No. 18-1354, 2020 WL 739074 (Iowa Feb. 14, 2020); 33 Carpenters Construction, Inc. v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., No. 17-1979, 2020 WL 739076 (Iowa Feb. 14, 2020); 33 Carpenters Construction, Inc. v. IMT Ins. Co., No. 19-0678, 2020 WL 739088 (Iowa Feb. 14, 2020).