Better Call Behnken: Owner unaware of lawyer, work to fix moldy Tampa home at standstill

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Clifford Greene thought he did everything right. But now, he’s stuck with a home that has been torn apart by contractors, and there is no plan to put his house back together.

Since October, he’s lived in just two rooms.

What’s worse: his insurance company, Universal Insurance, won’t talk to him about it anymore, because he has a lawyer. That’s where this case gets really confusing. Greene said he did not know he had a lawyer until his insurance company told him so.

“I thought I was dealing with a loss consultant,” Greene said. “He was supposed to help me negotiate with my insurance company and only bring in a lawyer as a last resort. But now, I find out he just sent the paperwork on to an attorney.”

The “he” Greene is talking about is Fred Kidwell, of Statewide Loss Consulting, based in Orlando. Greene tells 8 On Your Side that he was referred to Mr. Kidwell by a restoration company hired by his insurance company. An employee for that company, Diamond Restoration, recommended that Greene call Kidwell. That was confirmed by Lee Atkinson, attorney for Diamond Restoration. He said that employee is no longer with the company.

Greene tells 8 On Your Side that Kidwell won’t return his calls and that attorneys with the south Florida law firm, The Morgan Law Group, won’t call him back either. He says he can’t get past a legal assistant.

A spokesman for Universal Insurance sent this statement:

“We responded to the reported claim on an expedited basis and provided the initial payment within four days. The policyholder subsequently chose to hire a public adjuster and a lawyer.  This precludes us from further communicating directly with our policyholder, although we have informed the policyholder’s representatives of the information, we need to substantiate the additional request. Because the policyholder hired third parties to represent him in the claims process, those representatives should be able to answer any questions he has about the status of the claim or the information we have requested.”

Kidwell is not a public adjuster. Public adjusters are required to hold a license in Florida. Kidwell tells 8 On Your Side he is a loss consultant and never said he was a public adjuster.

Kidwell admits he did tell Greene he would only send off the attorney paperwork if his claim was denied with the insurance company, but he said the case was going nowhere, so he brought in the law firm.

“[Mr. Greene] signed the contract,” Kidwell said. “If the lawyer is not calling him back, that’s not my fault.”

Greene’s contract states, “Client shall pay Consultant/Estimator a fee of 10 percent of any new monies recovered, whether by agreement or award.”

Greene told 8 On Your Side that he did his job and turned over all repair estimates to the law firm. He said his “hands are tied,” and that he is waiting for the case to be over so he can get paid, as per his contract. He said he feels bad that Greene’s house is still torn apart, but there is nothing he can do to help.

What’s happening at Greene’s house is an example of the brewing controversy between public adjusters and those who operate as “loss consultants.”

Nancy  Dominguez, Managing Director of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters said, “This is exactly what is inuring policy holders all over the state of Florida. Loss consultants are completely unregulated”

She went on to say public adjusters take five hours of ethics courses every year, in addition to holding a state license.

Meanwhile, Greene remains stuck in his home, without a working kitchen.

“My house is a complete disaster,” he said. “How do you expect me to continue to survive when I don’t have a kitchen to cook a meal, or a sink to wash dishes in?”

WHAT OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON-

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