In The Know
Division's Bureau of Investigation Deployed to Areas Ravaged by Hurricane Michael
Investigators with the Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services' Bureau of Investigation were called to field duty in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Michael's landfall in the Florida Panhandle.
Investigators and staff from the Tallahassee headquarters and field offices were immediately dispatched when conditions improved after landfall to survey the damage and needs of affected consumers in Panhandle cities Mexico Beach, Panama City and Panama City Beach, Marianna, Sneads, Bristol, Blountstown, Gretna, Chattahoochee, Havana and Quincy along with other small rural communities. In addition, bureau teams were sent to the severely impacted coastal communities of Apalachicola, Port St. Joe, Carrabelle and hard-hit areas in the capitol city.
The purpose of the bureau's immediate field work was to contact consumers in need of both Department services and provide them with information for other state and federal agencies such as FEMA, offering assistance and distributing our Folleto de Asistencia en Catástrofes.
As the licensing and enforcement division of the Department, the team's secondary mission was to ensure only properly licensed and appointed adjusters and other licensees made contact with consumers. Protecting the interests of consumers dealing with the monumental and immediate tasks of recovery and rebuilding is the focus of the Department's mission after a major disaster.
Investigators were stationed at Florida Highway Patrol checkpoints in the most heavily damaged area, Mexico Beach, to check licenses and other identification and confirm licensees had bona fide appointments with consumers. Protecting residents from unwanted solicitation by adjusters, contractors and others in the very difficult first days and weeks after landfall was a priority for state, county, law enforcement and department personnel. Access to the area was restricted to residents, emergency and repair crews and those with clearance or authority to be there.
Investigators refused admission to adjusters unable to provide their Department credentials, valid ID, or proof of a meeting related to insurance business arranged with a consumer's consent.
During our work, we noticed a large number of adjusters failed to carry the proper credentials, and in many cases, appeared to be unaware of the requirement to provide such identification when engaging in adjusting activities with Florida consumers or requested by Department personnel.
Licensees of any type can download a copy of their credentials from their Mi Perfil account. A screen shot of the license information would also be helpful. Our new and improved Buscar Titulares de Licencias app on our website allows licensees and others to view important licensing information. We encourage consumers to verify the license status of any person or entity claiming to hold a license with the Department.
Bureau investigators continue to visit the affected areas and follow up on complaints and incidents falling under our regulatory authority and will maintain a presence throughout the long recovery period.
Title Agencies: Update Your Info for the 2019 Administrative Surcharge
Subsection 624.501(27)(e)2, F.S., requires any title insurance agency licensed in Florida on January 1 of each year to remit an administrative surcharge of $200 to the Florida Department of Financial Services.
Any title insurance agency licensed in Florida on January 1, 2019, was emailed a reminder earlier this month to the agency's email address on file with the Department. To ensure you receive any follow-up emails, please log in to the Mi Perfil account for your title agency and make sure the correct email address is on file. While doing so, we also recommend you do the same for your individual Mi Perfil account. Demographic changes made to an agency's profile do not populate the profiles of licensees associated with the agency.
Occasionally we discover agencies that were not aware of the reminder because of the retirement or termination of the employee assigned to monitor the email address provided to the Department. Failure to open the email sent by the Department containing the administrative surcharge reminder does not release an agency from the January 30 deadline. Please verify your information soon so this does not happen to you. If you need our assistance, you may contact us at AgentLicensing@MyFloridaCFO.com to assist you through the steps to update your information. Be proactive; do not procrastinate.
Failure to pay the surcharge on or before January 30, 2019 will result in administrative action which could include a fine, in addition to the original surcharge. Payment must be made securely online via the title agency's Mi Perfil account. Paper checks are not accepted.
Recent Updates to Online Licensee Search
The Division has updated its Buscar Titulares de Licencias. To see what's new, visit the new licensee search aquí. In addition to formatting changes, we've added several functions including the following:
It's important that licensees update their information in their individual and any business (e.g. agency) Mi Perfil accounts to not only be sure they are compliant with Florida law but also so the public can access their current information. As a reminder, addresses and other contact information are public records.
Contractors Unlawfully Acting as Adjusters
Since the arrival of Hurricane Michael, we've received complaints about contractors allegedly acting as public adjusters.
Contractors who assist their customers with their insurance claims may illegally be engaging in the practice of public adjusting without being properly licensed by the Department. There is a very distinct group of activities which define whether a contractor is truly acting as an adjuster or just cooperating with an insurance company:
The definition of a public adjuster, as explained in 626.854(1), Estatutos de la Florida, is any person, except an attorney, who, for money or any other thing of value (which would include securing a contract for repairs):
Prepares, completes or files an insurance claim form for an insured.
Aids in any manner on behalf of an insured in negotiating for or effecting the settlement of a claim.
Advertises or solicits for employment as an adjuster of such claims.
A contractor who is determined by the Department to be acting as a public adjuster in any manner is subject to arrest and may be charged with a third-degree felony as provided by section 626.8738, E.F.
Contractors who become licensed as a public adjuster cannot enter into a contract to do both the public adjusting and construction work on the same property, according to section 626.8795, E.F.
The Department of Financial Services will continue to take action against licensed contractors for illegally acting as a public adjuster or advertising the services performed by a public adjuster without being licensed.
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