Better Call Behnken: Diamond Restoration comes to aid of Tampa man stuck in disaster home

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Days after our 8 On Your Side investigation into who dropped the ball, leaving a Tampa man stuck in a disaster home, things are changing.

The owner of Diamond Restoration saw the news story and took control, sending his crews to the home to start putting it back together.

“When you come over here, it looks even worse than it did on the show, so I wanted to do the right thing and help this guy out,” said Nick Exarhos, owner of Diamond Restoration.

Crews started work to put up drywall and rebuild the kitchen and bathroom. Diamond will front the cost of repairs for now, and then try to recoup costs through a future insurance settlement.

Clifford Greene is thrilled.

“I am really confident in that, had this not happened, had you not run your story, I would still be sitting in the same position and none of this would be taking place,” Greene said.

This saga started after a plumbing leak in October.

Diamond Restoration tore the home apart for the insurance company, but then worked stopped. Then, the insurance company, Universal Insurance, stopped talking to Greene 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 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.”

Kidwell 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 happened at Greene’s house is now the subject of an inquiry by state insurance regulators.

Meanwhile, Greene is thankful, and he can’t wait for house to feel like home again.

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