It has been an exciting churning of events that have coalesced over the last year leading up to the birthday bash for the one year anniversary of The DYOJO Podcast. The first of these elements was an early 2020 interview with Ed Cross, then the inaugural chair for the recently formed Advocacy and Government Affairs (AGA) committee of the Restoration Industry Association (RIA). The Restoration Lawyer graciously agreed to a discussion that would be the core content for an article that was released as the April column for The Intentional Restorer. These words were drafted to carry the reader through vignettes of Mr. Cross’ legal journey which includes involvement in many of the key evolutions of the property restoration industry standards of care.
Source material for this article included previously written pieces from Michelle Blevins, Jeff Bishop, IAQ Radio, and a name that kept popping up, Pete Consigli. Mr. Consigli collaborated with Michelle for her article, A Brief Walk Through RIA History, while also composing one of the industry’s legacy pieces published in Cleaning & Restoration titled, The Four Faces on Mount Restoration (often referred to as The Founding Fathers article). Pete has long been referred to, by those who had front row seats to the early innovations of property restoration into a professional industry, as Restoration Google. Over the nearly nine months of our interactions, as well as my efforts to dig into the bowels of the emergence of our profession, I have learned that a good test of whether your source is credible would be whether they ask, “Have you talked to Pete about this?”
I was able to locate Pete’s Yahoo email account and reached out to him. Over a series of inquisitions with Pete asking the question, much like The Bob’s from Office Space who open every episode of The DYOJO Podcast with, “What would you say you do here?” I believe Pete came to see the value in my intention to first, help restorers to shorten their DANG learning curve and second, my genuine interest in understanding, sharing, and bridging the gap between our history and building a better future. As Lex Sisney, our guest for Episode 22, also declared, Pete noted I broke him down by being, “A persistent bastard.” The Consigliere finally agreed to join us for an episode to introduce his good friend Ed. It is my hope that this episode will encourage our tens of listeners to engage with the history of our industry as well as take an active role in helping to continue to shape its future.
It was by someone’s (other than mine) design, that a year after these discussions began we all made the time to be on the same show celebrating our growing friendship and our common vision to, as Mark Springer puts it, “Leave the industry better than we found it.” Ed Cross shared some recent revelations in the fight to defend the right to utilize assignment of benefits (AOB) by insureds and contractors as well as dispel some of the backlash against this resource from his perspective. In the wake of the 2019 decision in Florida leading to the elimination of the fee shifting statute for contractors, Pete facilitated a Town Hall discussion as well as an excellent episode of IAQ Radio (#553). As was revealed in that Town Hall, and by daily interactions between contractors, there are strong opinions about the role of AOB in our industry. Whether you believe they should be used or not, caution should be in play when responding to one extreme with another, i.e. responding to bad actors by eliminating the resource altogether. As John Lapotaire, who was vocal in his dissent during the Town Hall, shared during our discussion with Mr. Cross, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s AOB abuse that I disagree with. That’s a moral and ethical issue not an AOB issue.”
Ed views the AOB as a key resource that, “Puts the restorer in the front seat to be able to negotiate with and work with the insurance company.” Merlin Law Group, respected by many in our industry for their book Pay Up, noted in 2017, “Hopefully, the Legislature will come up with a fair and balanced solution that attacks the bad actors, protects consumers, and preserves the ability of a policyholder to execute an AOB under the right conditions.” Most efforts to bury or alter the right to AOB are cast as Insured Homeowners Protection Act, carrying the connotation that the legislatures, often with great encouragement and lobbying from the insurance companies, must intervene to protect homeowners from “the big bad contractors”. Unfortunately, the simple logic goes, protect the insured by limiting their resources. Restorers are fighting an uphill battle to contend with the vast resources available to those who have an interest in defeating opposing views. As noted in our article on mergers and acquisitions, efforts by the AGA to ultimately produce lobbying efforts are essential. Ed announced the launch of his new book, The Book on the Assignment of Benefits: A Restoration Contractor’s Guide with Forms & Instructions. Mr. Cross believes this resource helps contractors to strengthen their position to force the insurance company to deal with and pay them directly as they negotiate the claims process. He has made it his goal as the restoration advocate to reach a position where the majority of the adjusters at the major insurance companies understand that AOBs are valid, enforceable, and need to be honored rather than dismissed. Ed shared during our discussion some of the progress that he has seen towards that end.
As always, we encourage all of our listeners for The DYOJO Podcast and our readers for The Intentional Restorer, to do your own research and make your own decisions about the merits of these topics. We do our best to research, listen for, and present the counter points to any topic, but at the end of the day each restorer must make the best decision they can with the information they have in alignment with the values they hold dear. You have the opportunity to meet all three of the characters from this episode in person in June for the RIA 75th "Diamond" Annual Convention in Florida. Our goal is to help you shorten your DANG learning curve which includes making you aware of the resources that are available. Keep doing good things, sometimes persistence pays off when your intentions are genuine. Thank you for watching and listening as somehow you all hung in there for a year of audio/visual mediocrity perpetrated by The DYOJO Podcast. You can catch the next “show” on Thursday at 9am PST.