Unit owners of associations are clearly intended beneficiaries of the property insurance policy that the associations purchase. Indeed, in many situations, the association policy pays for the individual owner’s unit damage as well as the common elements. So, when a unit owner is damaged by a delaying, denying or underpaying property insurer, can the unit owner sue for the owner’s personal loss?
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Many state statutes and condominium bylaws require the purchase of reasonably available property insurance which covers all direct physical risks of loss on an extended and replacement cost basis. One issue I have heard associations and their insurance agents ask: “Is flood insurance reasonably available” so that it has to be insured.

This question was

Merlin Law Group New York and New Jersey office 2017 Holiday Party and UGLY SWEATER contest
Merlin Law Group New York and New Jersey office 2017 Holiday Party and UGLY SWEATER contest

Protective safeguard provisions can lead to denials of coverage. Condominium officers and boards, their insurance agents, and especially their property managers should be very wary when the requirement of protective safeguards are included in a policy or mentioned in an application. A failure to have protective safeguards in place and working may leave a significant condominium property loss completely uninsured.


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Property managers often include extra fees in their management agreements when having to help an association through an insurance claim and reconstruction. My experience has been these fees have risen significantly from extra hourly costs to as much as ten percent. While some may argue that a property manager is neither trained nor licensed to adjust claims and that property management firms may be practicing law or public adjusting without a license, the issue for recovery of these fees is important.


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Insurance agent relationships between property managers and association boards are important. Insurance agents are required to obtain the best coverage at the best price. The problem is when different insurance agents, competing for business, start telling property managers and association boards different things about the insurance in place and comparing insurance coverages.


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Property managers and condominium leaders will face an issue after Hurricane Matthew becoming all too recurrent following catastrophes—slow and underpaying property insurance carriers. While partial payments for small percentage amounts of easily agreed to damages are often made, full payment made within 90 to 120 days is almost non-existent with significant losses. Who can wait for that long to start substantial repairs?


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The fun and games that insurers put us and their policyholders through to not pay claims never ceases and gets more creative all the time. Attorney Ashley Harris told me that one of our condominium clients from Superstorm Sandy had a request from its insurer that the wind damaged roofs needed an inspection at 3:30 a.m. We agreed with the request but what happened was unusual—even more unusual than a 3:30 a.m. inspection.


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