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Contractor roles contested

Published (3/9/2012)
By Erin Schmidtke
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Contractors could be banned from negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of homeowners who are filing a claim for weather damage.

This is outlined in a bill brought before the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee March 6. HF2553, sponsored by Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska), would draw a clear line between the role of contractors and adjustors, who work with homeowners in assessing damage on their houses when they file a claim with an insurance company.

Bob Johnson, president of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, said the bill was necessary for the insurance marketplace. He believes that contractors who act as representatives for homeowners present a problem. He accused these contractors of “sidestepping the law,” saying it “muddies the waters” of insurance claims.

Contractors testified in opposition to the bill. They argued it would create additional work for them and damage their consumer relationships, which they spend years building. They added that insurance adjustors don’t have the construction background necessary to make knowledgeable assessments, which will result in consumers spending far more than is necessary.

Chris Parrington, an attorney with Skjold-Parrington who represents homeowners, supported the contractor’s role in the insurance claim process.

“I think this bill is nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and it will be devastating to consumers,” he said.

Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) received applause from dozens of contractors in the audience when he said that he would enlist the help of his friend, who is a contractor, when making a homeowner’s insurance claim.

Hoppe offered to negotiate between the Insurance Federation of Minnesota and stakeholders in the contracting industry.

“I think that the spirit of the bill is right, but … if we can’t find peace in the valley, then we’ll have to go back to the drawing board,” Hoppe said. The committee approved the bill and sent it the House floor, with Hoppe’s insistence that it will receive modifications before seeing a vote.

Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) sponsors SF2137, the companion bill that awaits action in the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee.

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