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Apartments Sprouting Up Throughout San Marcos

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July 19  |  News  |   Danielle Szeliga

Construction projects of five San Marcos apartment complexes—all of them geared toward college students—are scheduled to finish in August as Texas State University’s fall semester gets underway.

Apartments sprouting up throughout San Marcos*For the first quarter of 2013.Average apartment rates in San Marcos*

Apartments sprouting up throughout San MarcosSan Marcos apartments surging

With renters taking their pick among an estimated 3,530 new bedrooms, many apartment managers are having an increasingly difficult time finding enough tenants, said Jason Tarr, a real estate broker who owns the Great Locations rental location service.

“This year the apartment communities are going to see their biggest vacancy rate they’ve ever seen in San Marcos,” he said. “We’re overbuilt right now.”

Tarr said the increased competition is a cyclical boon for renters in San Marcos, where nearly three-fourths of the population lives in rental properties, according to 2011 census data. Apartment managers are reducing their prices, improving customer service and focusing on community relations, he added.

“It’s really good for the average Joe,” said Tarr, who estimates his company has helped about 20,000 people find housing since opening in 2003. “When apartments are overbuilt, it’s actually better for my business as well. Apartments call us daily and say, ‘Hey, this is what we have.’ They really need help.”

Slower in the summer

Robin Davis, who tracks apartment data for the market research company Austin Investor Interests, said San Marcos’ apartment occupancy rate was 95.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013, the highest first-quarter occupancy rate since 2000.

The summer is always slower for San Marcos, Davis said, but she added that she expects occupancy rates to rebound in the fall.

“The level has gone down slightly, but 95.2 percent occupancy is nothing to balk at,” Davis said.

Apartments opening in time for the fall semester include The Avenue, with 1,142 bedrooms off River Ridge Parkway at I-35, and Vistas San Marcos, with 540 bedrooms on North Fredericksburg Street a block south of campus. New apartments will probably fill up because college students prefer to live in new facilities, so older apartments “are going to suffer the most,” Tarr said.

Texas State’s enrollment growth and changes to its campus housing requirements are fueling the recent multifamily construction projects. Before 2010, Texas State required students with fewer than 60 credit hours to live on campus. Because of increased enrollment, the requirement was reduced to 30 hours in fall 2010.

Most of San Marcos’ new and proposed apartments rent by the bedroom, which caters to college students who don’t wish to be responsible for their roommates.

New projects

Developers are continuing to plan new apartment projects in San Marcos. In January, the City Council approved a rezoning request to build The Woodlands of San Marcos, a 1,000-bedroom complex on River Road. In addition, the City Council voted June 18 to allow a 1,112-bedroom student housing project near the intersection of Craddock Avenue and Wonder World Drive.

Also June 18, council members denied a request by developer Darren Casey to rezone property for apartments on Sessom Drive across from Texas State. Casey had wanted to build a five-story shopping and housing complex with 800 bedrooms.

Numerous San Marcos residents voiced opposition to the three projects, and many have argued the supply is outpacing demand for multifamily housing in the city.

“We don’t need apartments right now,” said Diane Wassenich, director of the San Marcos River Foundation. “Owners are having trouble even filling their apartments.”

Other residents argue the projects encroach on established single-family neighborhoods. However, at the June 18 City Council meeting, Councilwoman Kim Porterfield said the opposition to apartments has turned into discrimination against college students.

“We need to work together to solve these problems,” Porterfield said. “End this us-versus-them and this hatred and this really bad feeling that I get listening to people talk about how students are ruining our neighborhoods and ruining our lives, because I just don’t believe it.”

Tallahassee’s Policyholder’s Working Group!

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July 18  |  News  |   Danielle Szeliga

POSTED ON JULY 17, 2013 BY NICOLE VINSON

Reporting Live from Tallahassee’s Policyholder’s Working Group

I just finished day one as a participating member of theHomeowners’ Policy and Claim Bill of Rights Working Group. Thursday will be the second and final day of in-person meetings by the Group. Robin Smith Westscott, Florida’s Consumer Advocate, hosted the working group with the help of organizer, Vickie Twogood. During the morning session, one hour was devoted to talking about examinations under oath. While advocates for the insurance industry downplayed the examination under oath abuses, consumer representatives Paul Handerhan (FAPIA), Bill Newton (FCAN), Dale S. Dobuler, Esq., and myself were able give our input about the intimidation tactics carriers and defense attorneys use, and the abundance of open and shut claims that take a detour to examinations under oath land. Post-Loss Underwriting was also discussed during the morning session. While Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company was a main topic of conversation, I was able to advise the panel that other insurance companies are also engaging in post-loss underwriting actions. A large portion of this discussion centered on Florida’s misrepresentation statute and what really should be “material” to the insurance company’s decision to offer insurance. The afternoon session became a blend of three topics:

  • unauthorized adjusting of claims;
  • assignments of claim benefits to vendors and contractors; and
  • solicitation of policyholder in the first three days after a loss

Part of the discussion regarding the emergency services and contractor action needed after a loss also included the insured’s obligation to mitigate damages after a loss. Working

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to save your home from further damage can cause problems for insureds in Florida especially when the insurance company is late to the property. We learned that more arrests have been made by contractors who are acting as public adjusters without licenses in Florida. Thursday’s topics include:

  • Insurers’ Right to Repair; Safeguard and Warranties for Consumers;
  • Non-Renewal of Policies – Post Claim but Prior to Repairs;
  • Mortgage Company Withholding of Funds for Repairs when loans are in Arrears;
  • Mediation and Appraisal; and
  • The Policyholder Bill of Rights.

Want to join in on the conversation? Robin Westcott welcomes comments and asks that they be submitted toInsuranceConsumerAdvocate@MyFloridaCFO.com.

Hail Claims Up 84% on More Frequent, Severe Storms

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July 18  |  News  |   Danielle Szeliga

Insurance claims stemming from hail-related damage have increased markedly in the past two years, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). In its latest ForeCAST report, NICB points to an 84-percent rise in the number of claims logged in 2012 compared to that in 2010. To put things into perspective, 467,602 hail damage claims were filed in 2010, followed by 689,267 in 2011, and then 861,597 in 2012.

It’s no secret the nation has experienced severe storms of escalating magnitude and frequency. These storms have produced damaging winds, tornadoes, hail that have affected a larger swath of the U.S. The reason these storms are occurring in rapid succession is a subject of contentious debate, yet their far-reaching impact is clear—extensive property damage and, by extension, a mound of personal and commercial p&c claims.

Typical property damage from hail events can be as minimal as a few broken shingles or can amount to the decimation of multiple buildings. NICB’s report, which focuses solely on insurance claims resulting from hail damage, not loss of life, is divided into two sections. The first analyzes overall U.S. hail loss claims from 2010 through 2012, whereas the second section examines hail loss questionable claims (QC) submitted during the same timeframe.

Millions of Hail Damage Claims

One of the most dramatic takeaways in NICB’s overall assessment is the sheer volume of claims processed by its member companies. In fact, more than 2 million hail damage claims were processed from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012. During this period, the largest number of claims originated in Texas, which logged a total of 320,823. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, Texas saw 557, 741 and 795 hail events, respectively. NICB notes that claims activity follows the hail storm activity as posted on the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. Trailing behind the Lone Star state is Missouri, with 138,857; Kansas, with 126,490; Colorado, with 118,118; and Oklahoma, with 114,168.

Despite the overwhelming rise in hail-related damage claims overall, the number of related QCs submitted to NICB for closer inspection was more subtle. In total, 3,829 QCs, designated with a loss type of “hail,” were reported between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2012. Hail loss QCs decreased 4 percent between 2010 and 2011, then increasing 4 percent between 2011 and 2012. Once again leading the way, Texas was the state with the largest combined total of hail loss QCs, followed by Illinois, Colorado and Arizona. The top ten states on the list represented 76 percent of the total hail loss QCs during the 2010-2012 timeframe. For instance, Texas reported 1,053 QCs, or 28 percent of the total number of QCs between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2013.

Ambiguities in Policy Language Are To Be Construed in Favor of Policyholder!

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July 15  |  News  |   Danielle Szeliga

POSTED ON JULY 15, 2013 BY SHAUN MARKER

Florida Supreme Court Says Ambiguities in Policy Language Are To Be Construed in Favor of the Policyholder and Coverage Without Considering Extrinsic Evidence

The words on the page of the insurance policy matter and are very important to both parties to the agreement. Since the insurance company drafts the policy, if there is any ambiguity in the terms it writes and selects, ambiguity and interpretation will be resolved in the policyholder’s favor and in favor of coverage. However, some Florida courts have allowed insurance carriers to present extrinsic evidence, such as internal operating guidelines, to clarify or explain ambiguous policy language.

This will likely change since the Florida Supreme Court recently held that if there is an ambiguity in policy language, it is construed in favor of the policyholder and coverage without considering extrinsic evidence.1

In a case to answer a question certified by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the Florida Supreme Court made it clear:

 

[W]here the provisions of an insurance policy are at issue, any ambiguity which remains after reading each policy as a whole and endeavoring to give every provision its full meaning and operative effect must be liberally construed in favor of coverage and strictly against the insurer.

The Court also stated:

Florida case law cited by Washington National that allows extrinsic evidence to clarify latent ambiguity in contracts other than contracts of insurance does not govern the resolution of the question now before this Court. Moreover, the ambiguity in this case is patent rather than latent, in that it appears on the face of the contract.

Florida courts hearing insurance policy coverage cases must consider policy words and not other props and extrinsic evidence to try to make sense of the words the insurance carrier wrote. An insurance carrier has the burden to clearly define circumstances limiting or excluding coverage, and should it fail to do so, ambiguity is resolved in favor of its customer and coverage. Insurance carriers should not be given the chance to offer explanations regarding its intended interpretation of the policy; intended coverage should be clear when policies are issued.

1 Washington National Insurance Corp. v. Ruderman, No. SC12-323 (July 3, 2013).

Citizens Chasing Big Rate Increase

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July 15  |  News  |   Danielle Szeliga

BY JAMES L. ROSICA
Tribune staff

Published: July 14, 2013

TALLAHASSEE – Diane Jenkins remembers when her homeowners insurance premiums were as low as $600 a year, and she laughs.

Those days are long gone
Jenkins and her family live in a two-story Tampa house built in 1919 and valued at $350,000. She has paid as much as $5,500 yearly in premiums to Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state’s insurer of last resort. She is now with another insurer and still pays a hefty $4,300, she says.

“We’ve never had a claim,” Jenkins says. “We’ve done the tie-downs for the roof, we got the hurricane shingles. It’s an insurance company’s dream.

“We’ve done all the right things,” she adds.

As Jenkins and thousands of homeowners have learned, doing the right thing hasn’t helped in the face of a looming insurance apocalypse in Florida, mainly thanks to increasingly damaging storms in the past decade.

Now, Citizens homeowners policyholders in the Tampa Bay area may be paying as much as $200 more yearly as the insurer seeks approval from the state to raise rates.

The increases have to be approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, which is expected to address them this fall.

Citizens was formed in 2002 to insure “homes, businesses and condominiums whose owners otherwise might not be able to find coverage in the private market,” according to its website.

“From a company standpoint, it will help them get into a better fiscal position,” says Bob Childress, CEO of Solace Insurance in Largo. “For the mid- to lower-income folks that are paycheck to paycheck, this is going to be devastating to them.”

Insurance problems have vexed the state since long before Citizens was created. Robin Smith Westcott, Florida’s insurance consumer advocate, last week announced formation of a panel to figure out better ways to handle homeowner insurance claims.

Westcott cited “long and frustrating processes that impede families’ ability to recover.”

Citizens covers many homes and other properties that other insurers don’t – or won’t.

But the company, a not-for-profit government corporation, says it can’t charge as much as it needs to because of a 10 percent cap on rate increases. That’s leaving it in the hole to pay for future claims.

“Citizens is committed to providing a top-quality service to our policyholders and strives to be transparent and open about our rate-setting process,” spokeswoman Lori Poole said.

“Where Citizens has decreased or increased coverage, we have adjusted our rates and premiums accordingly.”

The Citizens board last month approved a request to raise rates by an average of 7 percent statewide next year, costing its more than 1 million policyholders a total of an extra $178 million.

Prices are going up for traditional homeowners insurance and sinkhole insurance. The cap on homeowner rates doesn’t apply to sinkhole coverage, however.

Sinkhole premiums are being raised in phases in Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco counties. The Tampa Bay area has the highest sinkhole rates in Florida.

Legislators, concerned that Citizens wouldn’t have enough money to pay out claims after a big storm, this year passed a law creating a clearinghouse to pass homeowners off to more private insurers.

Over the next several years, the law also will gradually limit the value of homes that Citizens can insure, bringing it down from $1 million to $700,000 by 2017.

The Citizens board also approved a deal potentially worth more than $50 million to transfer up to 60,000 policies to Heritage Property Insurance and Casualty. That company, which went into business last year, donated $110,000 to a political committee that Gov. Rick Scott controls.

Jenkins, the Tampa homeowner, tried moving to another company. She says her premium soon went up from $5,500 to $6,600 yearly, her deductible increased and she got less coverage.

“We called and said, ‘Hold on,’ and ran through all our bells and whistles,” she says. “The guy says, ‘Well, maybe you should have stayed with Citizens.”

But Citizens was always underpriced for the marketplace, Childress says.

So instead of a last resort, “they became the go-to.” That left the insurer historically underfunded, he says, though it now has a $6 billion surplus, according to reports.

Rep. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican, has been one of Citizens’ most fervent critics.

“I laugh – but I shouldn’t laugh – when I read their board saying they’re holding strong and not raising rates too much, but they’re going way above the 10 percent cap by doing it though the back door,” he says.

He cites these examples of changes Citizens is making:

Decreasing “mitigation credits,” or discounts for items such as replacement windows and wind-resistant roofing and siding,

Eliminating coverage for porches, pool enclosures and carports, which are most likely to be wrecked in strong storms.

Reducing coverage for liabilities, such as lawsuits against homeowners, from $300,000 to $100,000.

Poole, however, says policyholders whose mitigation credits were removed or reduced couldn’t confirm the presence of mitigation features on their homes.

The company also offers an appeals process for policyholders who want to challenge those reductions.

And she says the elimination of coverage for attached structures and the reduction in liability coverage “were made to bring Citizens more in line with its role as a ‘residual market insurer,’ which traditionally offers lower levels of coverage.

“In both cases, Citizens decreased premiums as a result of the coverage reductions,” Poole says. “Any policyholder who had reduced coverage also paid a reduced premium in 2013 as a result.”

Fla. Consumer Advocate to Examine Homeowner Claims

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July 11  |  News  |   Danielle Szeliga

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s insurance consumer advocate wants to look at how insurers are handling claims from homeowners.

Robin Smith Westcott announced Wednesday the creation of a working group that will meet later this month. The group will be asked to come up with recommendations, including whether legislators should change state laws that cover policyholders.

Westcott, who was appointed by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, says she was prompted to put together the group after hearing from frustrated homeowners at recent forums.

She said in a statement that consumers should not be “victimized” by poor claims handling or by those seeking to exploit homeowners following a loss.

Westcott said the working group will meet July 17 and 18. It will include representatives from both consumer organizations and the insurance industry.

Coastal Lawmakers Seek Delays in Flood Insurance Changes, Rate Hikes

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July 11  |  News  |   Danielle Szeliga

By Andrew Taylor | July 8, 2013 Just a year after Congress imposed significant changes in the government’s oft-criticized flood insurance program, howls of protest from homeowners facing higher premiums have coastal lawmakers pressing for delays that would preserve below-cost rates for hundreds of thousands of people in flood-risk areas. The government can’t say how many people could confront higher premiums, but homeowners in places like Staten Island, N.Y., along the battered New Jersey coast and in low-lying areas of Louisiana, Florida and Texas face the prospect that new government surveys could produce flood insurance premium increases so big that they could be forced from their homes or see their market value plummet. “That’s insane,” said Robert Taylor, a homeowner in Des Allemands, La. Taylor said the new law and flood survey would bump his premiums from $400 to more than $28,000 a year. “This community has been here since 1923 and has never, ever flooded. Ever.” At issue is a premium spike driven by a new flood map from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that says Taylor’s home is 6 or 7 feet below flood stage. The map, however, doesn’t take into account a levee built 80 years ago by the local government that protected the community through hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Isaac. The federal flood insurance debate is the intersection where efforts to root out waste and abuse run into real-world impacts on people. The aim is to end taxpayer bailouts of the flood insurance program, even if the overhaul forces people from their homes, reduces real estate values and alters the fabric of communities. FEMA estimates that about 20 percent of its 5.5 million policyholders — about 1.1 million — receive subsidies. About 250,000 of them will see immediate increases: business owners, those owning second homes and people with frequently flooded properties. An additional 578,000 policyholders living in hazardous areas will retain their subsidies until they sell their homes or suffer severe, repeated flood losses. The same is true for people in condominiums. The program, which has required $24 billion in bailouts since being established in 1968, had drawn withering criticism for its below-market insurance rates and the billions of dollars in losses from repeat claims on homes and businesses flooded every few years. Last year’s revision of the program was one of the few things that virtually everyone from tea party Republicans to liberals like Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., could agree on: It was time to bring soundness to the program by charging people insurance rates that reflect their risk of being flooded. Now comes the implementation. Starting late next year, FEMA will no longer grandfather in below-market rates for people whose older homes were built to the flood code in previous years or decades ago but have been judged to be at greater risk under new flood maps. Already, people are paying higher rates for second homes. In October, rates on businesses in flood zones and homes that have been severely or repeatedly flooded will go up 25 percent a year until the rates represent the “true risk” of flooding.

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And subsidized rates will lapse when a home is sold or flooded repeatedly. The changes have sparked enormous controversy in places like Louisiana, New Jersey and Florida, where subsidized flood insurance has been a staple of the economy for decades. In some areas, home values have plummeted because of uncertainty over insurance rates. Home sales are falling through because subsidized rates can’t be passed on to the buyer. And some homeowners have learned that new flood maps will send their premiums skyrocketing. In response to the firestorm, an unusual House coalition of Democrats and GOP conservatives teamed up on a 281-146 vote last month to delay some of the premium increases for a year. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., would block FEMA from implementing a provision of the law that phases out below-market, grandfathered premiums for homeowners whose flood risks are deemed higher under new maps, but it leaves in effect FEMA efforts to phase out direct subsidies of people living in flood zones. Cassidy’s amendment was added to the spending bill that funds FEMA’s budget. Despite opposition from conservative groups like Heritage Action, many prominent conservatives voted for the amendment, including Reps. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Steve Scalise, R-La., chairman of the Republican Study Committee. Cassidy is running to unseat Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who, for her part, is aiming for broader legislation in the Senate from her perch atop the Appropriations subcommittee that writes FEMA’s budget. She hasn’t revealed her plans. “What I’m talking about are the fishermen, the dock workers, the middle-class families that have lived on this coast and river for 300 years. And we’re literally pricing them out from a piece of geography that President Jefferson leveraged the entire federal Treasury to buy,” Landrieu, D-La., said. “On the heels of this recession, it’s just terribly cruel and harsh. And on the heels of the BP oil spill. And on the heels of Katrina and Rita, how much more can we take?” Supporters of the changes roll their eyes. They say the law is, for the most part, being implemented as designed and that it’s just that people are upset by the higher insurance rates they are having to pay. “This program was designed to bring some sanity to this flood program,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., said during debate on delaying the new premiums. “These are the exact intended consequences … that we would simply charge folks who are in risky areas more.” But FEMA’s critics say the agency is botching implementation of the law, for instance, failing to take into account non-federal levees and flood mitigation factors like coastal restoration and pumping equipment when looking at flood risks. David Miller, the FEMA official in charge of the program, acknowledges the agency has ignored non-federal levees in determining flood risk but is rethinking the policy. “We’ve put all mapping of levees on hold until the new policy goes into effect” in a few weeks. A bigger impact could be felt by people whose homes met previous building standards or were deemed at lower risk under previous flood maps but will face higher premiums soon. Under the old system, they could retain their old rates, since they followed the rules at the time they bought or built their home. The new law will phase out such grandfathered rates, starting late next year. Lawmakers say this grandfathering change is the source of nightmare stories of homeowners who presently pay a few hundred dollars annually for their policy but face many-fold increases now. FEMA can’t tell policymakers how many people even benefit from grandfathered rates, much less predict how remapping will affect them. For Louisiana homeowner Taylor, the possible effects are daunting — unless FEMA issues a reprieve by redrawing its new flood map. “The worst part is my home was worth $230,000 this Jan. 1,” Taylor said. “As of right now, my tax assessor tells me because of this flood insurance issue my home is worth $35,000, basically the lot.”

Commercial Property/Casualty Insurance Prices Continue to Rise!

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July 10  |  News  |   Danielle Szeliga

Posted On: Jul. 09, 2013 2:02 PM CST

Commercial property/casualty insurance price increases are continuing at midyear, though the pace of those price increases has peaked, according to the most recent six-month survey of property/casualty buyers by Barclays Capital Inc.

The survey of 75 risk managers for Barclays’ midyear 2013 survey showed prices for property and casualty lines are expected to increase 2% at midyear renewals, down slightly from the 3% anticipated increase in Barclays’ surveysix months ago.The survey saw 73% of respondents reporting overall rate increases, down from 83% at the start of the year, with 8% of respondents seeing price decreases, compared with none of those surveyed six months ago. The remaining 19% of risk managers reported flat renewals, up slightly from 17% six months ago.Of those surveyed, 92% characterized policy terms and conditions as stable compared with a year ago, up from 89% in the survey at the start of the year. Tighter terms and conditions were reported by 7% of those surveyed, down from 9% six months ago. And the survey showed little activity in multiyear deals, with two respondents indicating they renewed multiyear deals at midyear compared with five at the start of 2013.

P/C market seen as stable

Nearly all the buyers surveyed — 99% — described the property/casualty market as stable at midyear, up from 96% at the start of the year.The survey suggested that brokers’ fees will be largely unchanged in 2013, with 74% of midyear survey respondents reporting no change compared with 75% at the start of the year, while 19% reported higher fees compared with 18% in January, and 7% reported lower fees, the same percentage as the survey six months ago. The proprietary Barclays survey was based on interviews with 75 risk managers in the U.S. and Canada, most representing large national accounts.

RAA: Reinsurers Post Highest Net Premiums Written Since 2003!

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July 10  |  News  |   Danielle Szeliga
By Staff Writer | July 8, 2013

A group of reinsurers tracked by the Reinsurance Association of America in 2012 recorded a level of net premiums written not seen for about a decade. The RAA’s “Reinsurance Underwriting Review: 2012 Industry Results” reports 27 companies turned in NPW of $31.6 billion—the largest such number since the group posted about $33 billion in NPW in 2003. NPW in 2011 for the 27 companies was about $28 billion. The group recovered from a catastrophe-filled 2011 to record a 2012 underwriting profit of $973.9 million compared to a loss of $2.2 billion in 2011. Net income for the 27 companies was $8.3 billion compared to about $7.3 billion in 2011. Allied World Reinsurance and SCOR Reinsurers were the only companies to record a loss on income for 2012 with losses of $4.2 million and $97 million, respectively. Endurance Re., Maiden Reinsurance and QBE North America stayed in the red in 2012. These companies recorded income losses of about $20 million, $19.2 million and $49.2 million, respectively. The RAA’s “Reinsurance Underwriting Review: 2012 Industry Results” reports 27 companies turned in NPW of $31.6 billion—the largest such number since the group posted about $33 billion in NPW in 2003. NPW in 2011 for the 27 companies was about $28 billion. The group recovered from a catastrophe-filled 2011 to record a 2012 underwriting profit of $973.9 million compared to a loss of $2.2 billion in 2011. Net income for the 27 companies was $8.3 billion compared to about $7.3 billion in 2011. Allied World Reinsurance and SCOR Reinsurers were the only companies to record a loss on income for 2012 with losses of $4.2 million and $97 million, respectively. Endurance Re., Maiden Reinsurance and QBE North America stayed in the red in

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Texas Moves to Limit the Role of Roofing Contractors

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July 8  |  News  |   Danielle Szeliga

As I was driving through Dallas this week I noticed more and more roofing companies advertising help with hail damage claims. Anyone who has been involved in property claims in Texas knows that roofing contractors are a common sight. In fact, Texas seems

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to have more roofing contractors involved in claims than any other state. While there is absolutely a role for contractors in the claim process, this role does not involve negotiating a settlement, arguing coverage, or otherwise adjusting a claim. That part of the claim process is, and should be, left to licensed adjusters and attorneys. Adjusting a claim without a license is illegal, regardless of whether you represent a policyholder or insurance company. Due to the prevalence of hail storms and the sheer number of claims being submitted in the Midwest states, the line between roofing contractor and adjuster has seemingly been blurred on both sides of the fence. Carriers often hire preferred vendors to investigate and settle roofing claims and many roofing contractors are directly negotiating claims on behalf of policyholders that have retained them to repair the home or business. The Texas department of insurance, the Texas Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, and various other industry groups, have been working to prevent the unlicensed adjustment of claims for some time. In furtherance of those efforts, Governor Perry recently signed H.B. No. 1183 into law amending the insurance code in the following ways:

  1. An adjuster working for an insurance carrier is prohibited from adjusting a loss relating to roof damage if that person is also a roofing contractor, provides roofing services or products, or is a controlling person in a roofing-related business;
  2. A roofing contractor may not act as an adjuster (for an insurance carrier or a policyholder) or advertise to adjust claims for any property that the roofing contractor is providing, or may provide, roofing services, regardless of whether that contractor is a licensed adjuster or not;

Insurance companies, contractors, adjusters, and policyholders should be aware of this new law because violations can be dealt with severely depending on the circumstances. It is always better to be safe than sorry so if you have any questions about this law or its application feel free to contact us at any time to discuss your specific situation.  

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