TRENTON – After hearing complaints from homeowners affected by Superstorm Sandy who claimed they were overcharged by public adjusters, Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green today announced plans to introduce a bill that would cap how much a public adjuster can charge a homeowner for insurance claim assistance for certain emergencies.
Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset) said he decided to pursue the bill after hearing numerous complaints during a meeting in Union County from homeowners affected by Sandy who were overcharged by public adjusters hired to appraise their insurance claims. Public adjusters are experts on property loss adjustment who are retained exclusively by policyholders to assist in preparing, filing and adjusting insurance claims.
“Public adjusters are supposed to represent and look out for the best interests of the homeowner, but according to these residents, some of these adjusters were charging up to 40 to 50 percent of what the insurance company was to pay eventually. This is a crime. A loan shark doesn’t event charge that much,” said Green. “Unfortunately, there is nothing currently in the books to prevent these individuals from taking advantage of these homeowners. This bill changes that.”
The bill would prohibit an individual, firm, association or corporation licensed under the “Public Adjusters’ Licensing Act” from charging, agreeing to or accepting any compensation in excess of 10 percent of the amount paid out by the insurer for claims based on events that are the result of a catastrophic loss occurrence. As defined in the bill, “catastrophic loss occurrence” means an occurrence designated by the President of the United States or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or the Governor or the State Office of Emergency Management in the Division of State Police in the Department of Law and Public Safety, or any other authorized federal, state or local agency, as an emergency or a disaster and includes, but is not limited to, a flood, hurricane, storm or earthquake.
The compensation level established by the bill would apply to such claims made for a period of one year from the occasion of the declaration of the catastrophic loss occurrence.
“These natural disasters bring out the best and worst in people. For every Good Samaritan, there is a hustler looking to benefit from the misfortune of others. People who’ve suffered property damage due to a natural disaster deserve someone on their side during the complicated insurance claim process, not someone who is going to make the financial hit even more severe,” said Green.
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