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Most people assume that that chaos and civil unrest that raged across the State of Florida after Hurricane Rebeka made landfall as a Category 5 storm on October 2, 2013 was the result of the storm itself. But this assumption is not at all correct. While Hurricane Rebekkah was certainly a natural disaster of epic proportions, she was merely the catalyst that laid bare and exposed the corruption and critical fault lines that had developed across the State of Florida over the course of decades. Rebeka herself was not the destructive force that caused the entire state to descend into civil unrest, chaos and violence, she was merely the spark that ignited the combustible fabric of corruption and fraud that covered the state from the panhandle right down to The Keys and everywhere in between.

Florida, more than any other state has always been most vulnerable to the awesome force of hurricanes…the land mass of the state sticking out like an arrogant middle finger right between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, and right dead set in the middle of the historical paths of mother nature’s most powerful weather event.  And the middle finger called Florida stood right in the way of hurricane Rebeka’s as she traced a bulldozer’s path of destruction right across the state, making landfall for the first time directly on Miami’s South Beach.  But it wasn’t the winds or the rains or even the 10 foot high storm surge that provided the first insight into how bad this storm was going to be…it was the low pressure that preceded the storm that signaled just how bad things were going to get.

The low pressure from Rebeka arrived before the actual storm bands started to slap at the condominiums and houses that were built directly on top of the sandbar that is South Beach.  And as the pressure started dropping, something else started happening.  South Beach started Popping!  Slowly at first and then with a maniacal fury….Pop! Pop! Pop! The ravers and retirees, the bean pole models and the coked up drug traffickers of course thought the Pop! Was the soundtrack for another great hurricane party.  What they didn’t realize was that the Pop! Pop! Sound was actually sound of windows and doors popping off condos and houses…unable to withstand the tiny bit of pressure Rebekkah was providing.

Windows and doors were not supposed to pop out at the first hint of a storm, especially in light of the strict building codes that were enacted after Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992 causing $250 million in damages.  And while those building codes were largely enforced, there was exactly ZERO supervision or regulation of the roving bands of property preservation crews that popped up all across Florida like mosquito larvae after a good summer rain after the real estate crash of 2008.

You see, after the 2008 bust, more than a million homes in the Miami-Dade area alone were molested and raped by the unlicensed property preservation crews that were sent around to inspect and “protect” the interests of the banks and the real owners of property, the quasi-government agencies called Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  While everyday Floridians were required to use licensed contractors to perform any maintenance on their own homes, state and local building officials looked the other way for years as completely illegal, unqualified and reckless crews marched house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood completing the most insanely shoddy work on homes that would come to be owned by the banks, Fannie and Freddie and by innocent third parties who purchased from them.

And while elected officials and the boards of directors of Fannie, Freddie and the banks chose to look the other way and ignore hundreds of millions of dollars in shoddy and illegal work, Rebekkah would not look the other way.  Rebekkah was the mother of all building inspectors and as she made her way slowly across western Miami, her 80 mile an hour winds and driving rain exposed first all the roof repairs and window replacements that had been done, quite incorrectly, over the preceding years.  Windows and roofs that were properly installed and permitted were not at all affected by the winds and the rain, but the sub-standard work performed by the property preservation crews was immediately apparent.

As the rain rained and the wind howled, Rebekkah snatched tens of thousands of individual shingles and ceramic tiles off the roofs..turning them into deadly projectiles that were hurled at glass doors and windows that were likewise not installed correctly.  The longer she swirled, she exposed more and more absurdly shoddy “property preservation” work.  And while the sight of shingles and entire roofs flying across the south Florida skyline was bad enough, this was merely setting the stage for the catastrophic destruction that was coming.  As the roofs of the homes that were maintained by the unlicensed contractors continued peeling off in clumps, they exposed the wood underneath until finally entire roofs were ripped off. Soon after the roofs went entire homes began to fall apart.  And when the homes collapsed, the people that were huddled in those homes trying to ride out the storm died…lots of them.

In the years leading up to Rebekah’s destruction, no one cared at all about the blatant disregard for building code and public safety. But the storm exposed all this when the homes began collapsing….collapsing because Fannie and Freddie and all the banks refused to pay for licensed contractors to perform work properly.  People died because state and local officials allowed hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal and unlicensed contracting work to be performed all around them.

Unlicensed Property Preservation and The Scourge of The Undisclosed Defect

The insanity heaped upon this human tragedy was the fact that it was the federal government….and ultimately taxpayers…who were paying for the unlicensed contracting work under the auspices of “protecting” and “preserving” the properties that were now destroyed…permanently.  Until Rebekkah, no one seemed to care…and frankly not many people understood…that all the unlicensed work had already rendered the homes permanently disabled.

There were of course warning signs, black and white evidence that all of this was occurring.  The signs often came when inspectors, hired by any of the various insurance companies, came out to inspect the property that was previously maintained by the banks and their unlicensed agents either as part of a potential sale transaction or worse, after the property had been delivered unto some unwitting third party purchaser.

The inspectors could pick off the improper roof work before they even got out of their cars…and they certainly didn’t need to crawl up into the attics.  The trained eye could see the faulty roof work and window work standing on the street.  And when just one little piece of the roof was bad…the whole thing came off.  And if the property, infected with the unlicensed, unpermitted and shoddy work, had been unloaded to some third party the sale could be undone or the seller forced to pay the damages that were associated with the undisclosed defect.  That of course meant that Fannie/Freddie and ultimately taxpayers would have borne the costs for all that unlicensed work eventually.  The fact of the matter is the roofs were coming off eventually…whether because Rebekah ripped them off or when anyone bothered to take a closer look.

The specter of tens of thousands of Floridians stranded in homes with no roofs and no power was certainly bad…but that was just the start.  The stranded clung to a hope that their lives would soon be on the path to being rebuilt, that their property would be repaired and their personal items replaced. After all, that was the promise of homeowner’s insurance…wasn’t it?

Well, in most states that’s the case, but this is after all Florida. Florida, just like every other state, required property owners to maintain homeowner’s insurance for the properties they live in.  But unlike other states whose captive residents paid insurance premiums to highly regulated national carriers,  the State of Florida invented its own special brand of insurance, Citizen’s Insurance.  And unlike other highly regulated carriers who carefully set aside and managed the billions of dollars that would be necessary to help put things right…the premium dollars paid and the reserves necessary to even start to rebuild did not exist…they had blown away in the years leading up to the storm.

And things became very much unsettled in Florida when the tens of thousands of residents realized that the insurance premiums they dutifully paid over years had long been shipped offshore and overseas…and that there wasn’t any money left to pay the valid claims of the Florida homeowners who had paid premiums for decades…..that’s when things just started to get bad in Florida….

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