Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do you have a "Picasso" in your association's attic?

Hurricane Wilma made landfall in the state of Florida on October 24, 2005. Four years ago, many associations were doing well; most people were paying their assessments, real property values were at an all time high and the subprime mortgage collapse had not yet occurred. When these same associations were told by their insurance companies that their storm damage would not be paid for by insurance proceeds because the association did not meet its deductible or associations received pennies on the dollar and still had to specially assess their members to pay for storm repairs, most did not fight the insurance giants. Instead, they acted like the kind of customers the insurance companies love, took their medicine and went on about their business.

Now, however, that money would come in handy to weather the financial storm many communities are experiencing. What the vast majority of associations don't realize is that they may have that "Picasso" worth millions sitting in their proverbial attic and not even know it. There is a 5-year statute of limitations to bring a claim against an insurance company for a loss. Associations that either did not make a claim for fear of being dropped or their rates raised (an irrational fear given insurance industry practices) and/or were told they did not meet their deductible, have the ability to still make a claim for those losses. Even associations that may have received some money but did not go to appraisal or sign a full release may still be able to revisit their old claim.

The bottom line is that volunteer board members simply cannot "eyeball" storm damage and determine the true extent of damages their community may have suffered. What looks like a damaged roof may actually include significant structural and electrical damage as well. This is one of those times that the best boards reach out to experts to either reinforce their own findings or point them in a different and truer direction.

At this point with time running out in the hourglass, boards need to consult an attorney about their potential claim. Public adjusters play a role early in the process of adjusting claims but not this late in the game when a lawsuit must be filed in order to recoup money owed before the statute of limitations runs out.

So the real question at this point is, if you knew then what you presumably know now would you have accepted what was told to you at face value or would you have fought to be made whole? Would that Picasso make your life a little easier right now?

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