What is an Assignment of Benefits?
An AOB is an agreement that transfers the insurance claims rights or benefits of the policy to a third party. An AOB gives the third-party authority to file a claim, make repair decisions, and collect insurance payments without the involvement of the homeowner. AOBs have been used with life and health insurance policies for many years. However, AOBs are now being commonly used in homeowners’ insurance claims by restoration companies and contractors. Signing an AOB can be helpful with navigating the claims process, but if misused, it can lead to harmful consequences for the homeowner.
For example, you have a pipe leak in your home that causes water damage. If you call a restoration company to make repairs and sign an AOB that transfers your insurance rights to the company, the company can file a claim on your behalf and be paid directly.
What information must be included in an Assignment of Benefits?
The AOB must contain a written, itemized, per-unit cost estimate of the services to be performed by the third-party assignee and it must only relate to the work to be performed for services to protect, repair, restore, or replace a dwelling or structure or to mitigate against further damage to such property.
The AOB must contain a notification in 18-point, uppercase, boldfaced font that advises you that you are giving up certain rights under your insurance policy to a third-party. The notification must also include the rescission terms.
The AOB must contain a provision that requires the third-party assignee to indemnify and hold you harmless from all liabilities, damages, losses, and costs (including attorney fees) if the policy prohibits an AOB. The execution of the AOB constitutes a waiver by the third-party assignee and its subcontractors of claims against you for payment arising from the AOB. The third-party assignee and its subcontractors may not collect, or attempt to collect money from you, maintain any action of law against you, file a lien against your property or report you to a credit reporting agency.
The AOB prohibits the third-party assignee from seeking payment from you in any amount in excess of the applicable policy deductible unless you have agreed to have additional work performed at your own expense.
What Responsibilities does the Third-Party Assignee have Under an Assignment of Benefits?
The assignee must provide a copy of the AOB to your insurance company within 3 business days following its execution, or the date work commenced, whichever is earlier.
The assignee must comply with certain policyholder duties as stipulated by the policy including the responsibility to maintain records of all services provided, cooperate with the insurance company’s claim investigation and provide the insurance company with requested records and documents related to the services provided. As a pre-condition to filing suit, the assignee must submit to examinations under oath or recorded statements related to the services provided, the associated cost, and the AOB itself.
If I have suffered damage to my insured property, what should I do first?
If you have damage, you should take the necessary steps to mitigate the damage and prevent any additional damage from occurring. This would include any temporary repairs such as covering the roof or removing standing water. You should also immediately contact your insurance company to inform them of the damage and file a claim.
Do not allow a third party, such as a water remediation firm or contractor, to contact your insurance company for you. You should be the one to make the first contact with your insurance company. You do not need to sign an AOB in order to get your insurance claim processed or your residence repaired.
How does an Assignment of Benefits impact me, as a homeowner?
An AOB can be helpful with navigating the claims process, but if misused it can lead to harmful consequences.
Below are a few things to keep in mind:
You are signing over the rights and benefits of your insurance policy to a third party.
Depending on the language in the AOB, the insurance company may only be permitted to communicate directly with the third party and you may lose all rights to the insurance claim, including the right to mediate the claim, or to make any decisions regarding the claim, including repairs.
Depending on the language in the AOB, the third-party may be able to endorse checks on your behalf.
Once you have signed an AOB, the third-party may file suit against your insurance company.
Tips to remember before and after you have suffered damage:
Thoroughly review your insurance policy to ensure you understand the policy, including your coverage, deductibles and responsibilities after damage has occurred.
Immediately following a loss, you have a contractual duty to mitigate your damages and make any temporary repairs to prevent further damage from occurring. Document any existing damage with photographs prior to making any repairs. Do not make permanent repairs prior to an inspection by the insurance company adjuster. The company has a right to inspect the damage prior to repair.
Make sure you thoroughly review and understand any contracts you sign with repair companies, including an AOB. If you do not agree with the provisions of the AOB, you may be able to negotiate the provisions of the contract. You do not need to sign an AOB to get your insurance claim processed or your residence repaired. If you are asked to sign an AOB, make sure you read it carefully and clearly understand what rights and benefits you may be signing away.
Verify the license (if one is required) of any contractor or vendor that you hire to make repairs to your property. You should also verify the company or person’s general liability and workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
Below is a checklist that may be helpful when reporting a claim:
Contact your insurance company directly to report the damage and set up a time for the adjuster to inspect the damages. Do not allow a third-party, such as a water remediation firm or contractor, to contact your insurance company for you. You should be the one to make the first contact with your insurance company - as soon as possible.
Take photos of the damage.
Make emergency or temporary repairs.
Make an inventory of any damaged items.
Save receipts for any repairs.
Do not discard any damaged items without prior approval from the insurance company.
Make a list of any questions you would like to ask the insurance adjuster.
Request a copy of the fire or police report, if applicable.