First Florida. Then, it could be the rest of the country.
If you ask Harvey V. Cohen, attorney, Cohen Battisti & Malik, the proposed Florida House Bill 909 could destroy the restoration industry as we know it over time.
The bill was the focus of a special open-house style meeting Saturday, April 20 at the conclusion of The Experience Conference & Exhibition, which fittingly took place in Clearwater Beach, FL. Specifically, if passed, the bill would take away the homeowner’s ability to assign rights and benefits under their insurance contract. Essentially, it shifts risk from the insurance company to the mortgage holder and doesn’t guarantee that a contractor will be paid for any work after it’s completed.
“They’re taking away a valuable right from the homeowners and make it specific to this industry and not to anybody else,” Cohen says. “I think it’s outrageous. If this language stays in this bill and this bill gets passed, you’re going to have to make sure you go and collect money from people up front. Most people don’t have $5,000 sitting around waiting for an emergency at their house.
“If they do away with assignment (of benefits), there will be no right to recover. Who are you going to get the money from? If the insurance company pays the homeowner directly and they keep the money – too bad, you’re out of luck.”
The bill could make it hard for a lot of Florida restoration companies to stay in business, says Jeff Grant, President/Owner of Bone Dry Restoration (Tallahassee, FL), who has been active in mobilizing support to stop it.
But the fact is that time’s ticking. Legislative session ends on May 4. If the bill isn’t derailed by then, it’ll go to a vote in the House of Representatives. If it passes the House, it will go to the Senate.
Grant hopes that it will fail before it can go to the House vote or that, minimally, the language in it will be changed. But if it doesn’t, and it passes via House vote, the industry’s last chance to derail it will be before it goes in front of the Senate.
If the bill takes effect in Florida, a trickle-down effect could proceed to other states across the country.
“It not only affects you, it’s going to affect all of us down the road,” says Gary Glenn, SCRT President, ICRA VP and partner of ServiceMaster by A-Town Hi-Tech Cleaning and Restoration, which operates out of Abilene, TX. “We’re going to get actively involved in this.”
Grant’s hoping that fellow Florida restoration businesses join him in the effort to shoot down House Bill 909. He’s started the Florida Association of Restoration Specialists and is currently in the process of hiring a lobbyist to represent the industry both presently and on any future bills that might crop up – but a lobbyist is going to come with a $25,000 price tag, of which funds are needed immediately.
Grant’s asking anyone willing to help to contact him either by phone (850-878-6469) or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Checks can also be made out to “Foyt Ralston & Associates, LLC” and mailed to Grant at Bone Dry Restoration and Cleaning, Inc., 1285 Smoke Rise Lane, Tallahassee, FL, 32317.
Cohen recommended that restoration contractors across the country get involved with associations in case a bill like this crops up elsewhere.
Fighting FL House Bill 909: How to Get Involved
- Contact Jeff Grant at 850-878-6469 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks can also be made out to “Foyt Ralston & Associates, LLC” and mailed to Grant at Bone Dry Restoration and Cleaning, Inc., 1285 Smoke Rise Lane, Tallahassee, FL, 32317 to support a lobbyist.
- Contact your local Florida representatives and senators.
- Join industry associations that can mobilize support to fight the bill. Remember, even if House Bill 909 fails, a similar bill could emerge in the future.