Getting Dumped By Your Insurance Company We're Through

Getting Dumped By Your Insurance Company

Simply put, insurance equals protection. Insurance will help protect your investment if your building is damaged or destroyed by fire or other causes. Public liability coverage will protect you if someone is hurt in the building and sues you. This insurance is vital to the financial stability of a building—without it, and one big loss can place a building in financial turmoil.

In most cases, insurance providers will have a long-term happy relationship with the buildings they insure. Every once in a while, however, an insurance company will opt to either terminate or not renew a building's insurance policy—in other words, they'll break up the happy relationship. Like any broken bond though, there are several reasons given that will help to understand what went wrong. In a typical building/insurance provider relationship, the reasons for cancellation come down to four main break-up syndromes:

The "You're-Costing-Me-a-Fortune"syndrome. Ahhh…what woman doesn't want a man to spend gobs of money on her in a relationship? Although I'm not materialistic, I, too, enjoy the occasional gold or diamond bracelet or ring or exotic trip. Unfortunately, in a building/insurance company relationship, the insurance company isn't too keen on spending so much money. The "You're-Costing-Me-a-Fortune" syndrome ranks as the most common reason a building will lose its insurance.

"It's a business," says Russell Weinstein, a partner at A.R.M. of New York, Inc. "Let's say we have a building worth a million dollars and it's insured against fire or vandalism for $10,000 a year. Four months later there is a significant loss of $100,000. Now, the insurance company pays the $100,000 and is now out $90,000. When the year is up and it's time for to renew the policy, the insurance company may not want to stay on the account or may charge much more for premiums. As a result, why would the insurance company want to stay on the account? They lost money already."

The good news is that one loss doesn't always mean an immediate breakup. Insurance companies can usually be forgiving, but it depends on the size and the frequency of the losses.

"Usually, when you have a large loss, it gets everyone's attention and sometimes that causes a problem," says Thomas R. Kozera, CPCU, President/CEO of SKCG Group in White Plains. "But rarely has a company canceled because of one loss. On a renewal, the insurance company may raise the premiums, but one loss usually doesn't get you thrown out. However, it can be a frequency of losses that is more of a problem than one big one. For example, if you have five $30,000 water damages versus one $100,000 loss, that's bad. It's like when you have one car accident in a year or five fender benders in one year, you would want to get away from anyone who has a frequency of accidents."

The"You're-Not-Up-to-My-Standards"syndrome. Ouch. Truth be told, everybody sounds great on paper. Don't believe me? Go to any dating site and read the personals. Nobody tells about their bad habits and cranky moods. But if the person fits your needs, and you find a few little tics that bother you, you may try to give them recommendations on how they can change to improve themselves. When they don't take heed of your advice, you kick them to the curb.

Insurance companies do the same thing with buildings. Upon their inspection, they offer suggestions on how to make the building less of a risk.

"However, if you write a building policy and the sidewalk cracks and the staircase isn't done and you tell the client to fix it, but it isn't fixed, the insurance company doesn't have to renew the policy."

The "I've-Moved-on-to-Something-Different"syndrome. When we're searching for our true love, next relationship or just Mr./Miss. Right, we all have at least some standards - tall, short, blonde, brunette, sports nut, theater lover, etc. Sometimes, at any point in the relationship we may decide that one of those "must-haves"—say, sports nut—doesn't meet our needs anymore, we may reconsider the relationship and dump him/her.

"Sometimes a carrier's appetite has changed," says Weinstein. "If the carrier is on a real estate account, the insurance carrier may no longer want to be in the real estate sector and shift the business."

The"You-Owe-Me-Money"syndrome. Financial guru Suze Orman tells her viewers that money is the number one issue why couples break up. Believe it or not, it's no different in a building/insurance relationship either. Failure to pay insurance premiums at all or on time can ultimately cost the building its insurance coverage.

"With property insurance, it's either pay or die," stresses Joe Ross of Century Coverage Corp., in Valley Stream. "You'll usually get a notice when you're 30 days overdue and you'll have ten business days from that time to make good on the premium."

Ross explains that banks will often hold the property insurance in escrow, preventing any potential missed premiums. However, not all buildings work this way, so it's vital to stay up to date on insurance premiums.

We're Through!

If an insurance company decides it's time to call it quits, a non-renewal letter must go out at least 60 days in advance to provide ample time for the building to find a new insurance carrier. Like any good friend eager to set you up on the next wonderful, and even better, blind date, your insurance broker would be the perfect person to turn to at a time like this to help get things back on track and find a new insurance policy quickly. If your building doesn't have an insurance broker, it's up to the managing agent, board or owner to find a new policy, depending on the requirements of the building.

"A good broker goes into crisis mode the second we find out the building got a warning," says Kozera. "We try to mitigate the damage as much as possible and educate the managing agent on what the issues are and how they can rectify the problem and the long range solution to make it better. The buildings respect what you bring to the table as a broker."

On the application process for a new policy, it is important to answer the question about dropped policies honestly. "There are potentials for the insurance company to deny coverage because of fraudulent applications," says Kozera. And news does travel fast.

Of course, the worst possible scenario is that something serious happens while the building is searching for a new insurance policy, say a slip-and-fall in the front lobby or a fire in the laundry room.

"The association is responsible," says Kozera. "If you have a property worth $1 million and the building has no insurance, the property will have to take out a mortgage to pay the damages. If it's a condo, they'll assess everyone."

Weinstein explains that today's soft market would make it rare for a carrier to drop a building's insurance unless it has a lot of losses. "There has to be a good strong reason on the cancellation," says Weinstein. "In this soft market, though, it's rare because they can shop around and get a lower price."

The bottom line is that in order to protect your building from losing its insurance policy and leaving it at risk for financial ruin, it's important to adhere to the recommendations that your insurance carrier has given, thereby reducing potential risks, and make the premium payments on time. Of course, you can't avoid the fact that a carrier may move out of your area of business, but a good building will do what it can to keep itself, its residents and its visitors safe and protected.

Lisa Iannucci is a freelance writer, published author and mother of three living in Poughkeepsie, New York.

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