When winter weather strikes, drivers face out-of-the-ordinary challenges when they get behind the wheel. Snow, slush or icy roads are involved in nearly one in four weather-related vehicle crashes. These conditions can make it harder for drivers to see, slow down and stop – all factors that can increase the chances of an accident.
If you must travel during winter weather, preparing your car in advance, knowing the forecast and driving based on road conditions are three key ways to help you drive more safely. Following are some winter driving safety tips to help you prepare for the elements – before you face them – on the road.
Preparing Your Vehicle
As temperatures start to drop, it’s time to make sure your car is stocked with a winter driving survival kit, including an ice scraper, a snow shovel and sand or road salt. This way, you’ll be prepared if winter weather arrives while you’re away from home. It’s also a good time to check your tires to determine whether it’s time to replace them or whether you need snow tires.
A few habits to adopt regularly during the winter months can also help prepare you for a wintry drive. Keep your windshield wipers in good condition and your windshield fluid reservoir filled so you can clear snow and ice from your windshield. Make it a practice to keep your gas tank full so you can run your engine and stay warm if you get stuck or stranded.
Keeping your gas tank full in extended cold weather can also help minimize the amount of water vapor in your tank, which can freeze when temperatures drop. In addition to keeping the tank full, consider keeping your vehicle in a garage and using fuel additives such as dry gas to help eliminate water vapor that could freeze in your gas lines. You should also either drive or run your car in a well-ventilated area at least every few days to help avoid a dead battery, another cold weather concern.
Watching the Weather
If you plan to travel when inclement weather looms, monitor road and weather conditions by checking local news stations or Internet traffic and weather sites. You can sign up for weather alerts to receive text messages and optional alerts for your area. Do not check your phone while driving and avoid all unnecessary distractions when you’re behind the wheel.
Driving for Winter Conditions
Before you leave the driveway or parking lot, take time to clear snow and ice off your car, including your windows, mirrors, lights, reflectors, hood, roof and trunk. Drive with your headlights on and be sure to keep them clean to improve visibility. Use caution when snow banks limit your view of oncoming traffic.
As you get on the road, remember that speed limits are meant for dry roads, not roads covered in snow and ice. You should reduce your speed and increase your following distance as road conditions and visibility worsen. Avoid using cruise control in snowy or icy conditions – you want to have as much control over your car as possible. Be cautious on bridges and overpasses as they are commonly the first areas to become icy. Avoid passing snow plows and sand trucks because the drivers may have limited visibility and the road in front of them could be worse than the road behind.
Breaking Down or Getting Stuck
If you are unexpectedly caught in a snowstorm and are stranded or get stuck in snow, if your car is safely out of harm’s way, stay in your car and wait for help. You can run the car heater to stay warm for 10 minutes every hour, but first, make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow. There is a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning if snow blocks the pipe and enables the deadly gas to build up in your car. Open your window slightly to help prevent any buildup.
Remember, driving in winter weather can be challenging, even for experienced drivers. Slowing down, allowing increased time to come to a stop, wearing your seatbelt, devoting your full attention to the road and being aware of changing conditions can help you drive more safely. If your travel route takes you into remote areas with limited cell phone coverage, consider informing a third party of your travel plans and share with them your route and when you plan to arrive. This way, if you are overdue, first responders will know where to start looking. If you’re unsure whether it is safe to drive, consider waiting until the roads improve.
We have recently had several claims involving fraudulent checks. Sororities aren’t the only victims. In an alert sent out in February, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, also known as FinCEN, reported that, “Despite the declining use of checks in the United States, criminals have been increasingly targeting the U.S. Mail since the COVID-19 pandemic to commit check fraud.” Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods, making it crucial for organizations to stay vigilant. These fraudulent activities encompass a range of tactics, including counterfeit checks, altered payee information, and even identity theft to gain access to legitimate bank accounts. As a result, it is imperative for chapter and house corporation officers and volunteers to be aware of these risks and adopt strategies to mitigate the threat of check fraud. We recommend the following strategies:
- Secure your checks: Store your checkbook, blank checks, and deposit slips in a secure and locked location. Limit access to these items to only trusted individuals. Consider using a secure check stock with built-in security features like watermarks or microprinting.
- Try and limit exposure by reducing check use. Transitioning to electronic checks and digital payment methods reduce the risk associated with paper checks.
- Make sure you’re following internal safety measures. Chubb Insurance, the insurance company who writes your Crime Insurance Coverage, has some basic risk management rules and guidelines for the entities under your organization’s national insurance policy. These conditions are referred to as “required conditions” and list out specific requirements in the financial management to ensure that there is dual control of the financial transactions at all times. These measures help prevent check fraud, as well as other financial crimes. Read more here.
- Consider Positive Pay: Enroll in Positive Pay services offered by your bank. This service helps detect discrepancies by matching the checks presented for payment with a list of authorized checks you’ve issued. Positive pay procedures set permissions in a checking account, so the company gets confirmation before a check or ACH Debit against your company is processed. ACH: ACH stands for Automated Clearing House and is a network that transactions pass through in the United States. The network exists to manage the transfers and organize them. ACH debit is the transaction executed through the Automated Clearing House Network.
- Train employees and volunteers: Educate employees and volunteers about the risks of check fraud and teach them how to recognize signs of suspicious activity. Ensure they understand the importance of safeguarding sensitive financial information.
- Stay informed: Keep yourself informed about the latest trends in check fraud and adapt your prevention strategies accordingly. Criminals continually evolve their tactics, so staying up-to-date is essential. Count on MJ Sorority to continually monitor the trends and communicate new strategies to you.
Over the past five years, property insurance companies have faced significant challenges in maintaining profitability. A surge in catastrophic claims, changing weather patterns, and rising temperatures have contributed to this crisis. Factors such as the increasing severity of claims, dramatic rise in material costs, and historical underinsurance have compounded the problem. Additionally, there has been a startling rise in the number of billion-dollar disasters. These issues have forced insurance companies to implement rate increases, reduce coverage limits, and modify terms and conditions. The situation reached a breaking point with the devastating Hurricane Ian and subsequent winter storm of 2023. We are now in the midst of the worst property insurance market the industry has ever seen.
The Changing Landscape
The current state of the property insurance market demands a shift in the way insurance is approached. Insurers are being forced to move away from acting as quasi-warranty replacement policies and focus more on covering larger or catastrophic claims. Property owners must prepare for higher property deductibles and invest in building modifications and maintenance measures that reduce potential weather damage and the extent of damage. The industry is refining its underwriting strategies for risks such as tornadoes, wind, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, hailstorms, and freezes. Predictive modeling is getting more sophisticated and accurate, enabling insurers to better assess risk based on big data, the increasing speed of climate change, and subsequent specific locations prone to particular risks.
The crisis is not isolated to a single insurance company but is affecting the entire industry. The reinsurance market, heavily impacted by Hurricane Ian, is facing a day of reckoning. Rate increases and adjustments to coverage limits, deductibles, exclusions, and limitations have become prevalent. This situation poses challenges for insurance providers and agents, as many markets have declined coverage due to a concentration of residential frame housing values, as we already seeing in Florida and California.
Facing the Current Situation
MJ Sorority has shielded clients from market volatility in the past (see graphic) but now is being forced to address the evolving landscape. The insurance provider for the MJ Sorority Program, Travelers Insurance Company, informed us that they would be addressing conditions, rates, and deductibles upon each client’s renewal. Travelers’ actions are indicative of industry-wide changes that require careful consideration. Rest assured that unlike what we’re seeing in the homeowners’ markets, capacity and coverage are not at risk.
The property insurance market is facing unprecedented challenges due to an array of factors. Insurers and insureds alike must adapt to the evolving landscape by embracing a new business model that emphasizes coverage for larger or catastrophic claims. Increased property deductibles, building modifications, and refined underwriting practices are crucial steps. The industry’s focus on predictive modeling and big data can help allocate risk more effectively. MJ Sorority understands the difficulties posed by the crisis, and we are dedicated to enhancing risk management advice and resources, particularly regarding wind and hail perils, both at the headquarters level and among local housing volunteers.
By working together, insurers and insureds can navigate the perfect storm and ensure continued protection against unforeseen property losses. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your Client Executive with questions and concerns.
 For further reading about the insurance market, refer to the links embedded in the document above or review the following links fur further reading:
- Allstate Stops Selling New Home-Insurance Policies in California, Citing Wildfire Risks, Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2023.
- Insurers Fleeing California Market Want Rate-Hike Flexibility, Bloomberg Law News, June 14, 2023.
- America’s growing hurricane wind problem, Axios, February 27, 2023.
- Florida’s hurricane danger: It’s not the wind, it’s the water, Tampa Bay Times, June 6, 2023.
- Why Is Homeowners Insurance In Florida Such A Disaster?, Forbes, April 11, 2023.
- Property Insurance Market ‘Hardest in a Generation’, Claims Journal, March 28, 2023.
- Several factors pushing property insurance prices higher, Business Insurance, June 9, 2023.
National fraternities and sororities have been dealing with changing circumstances on many fronts over the
last five years. Part of this changing landscape involves property management and adapting to significant
increases in property claims across the nation. As a result, property owners must prepare for higher property
deductibles, due to the increase in the frequency of claims and in the increase in the severity (cost) of claims
than in years past.
It is critical to an organization’s sustainability to have adequate short-term cash reserves and liquidity resources
for operational flexibility and for ensuring that organizational commitments are met timely. Beyond short-term cash reserves, fraternities and sororities should also consider building reserves to fund insurance
deductibles as claims are incurred. Such reserves (often designated by the Board of Directors) are funded so
that intermittent claims can be managed without disrupting already tight operating budgets.
In considering building an insurance reserve fund, organizations should consider the following areas:
- Understanding the risk landscape (past, present, and future) – collaboration with an organization’s current insurance provider and property managers or housing team members can aid in understanding what claims have been incurred, properties at risk for issues now, and what deferred maintenance issues might be present in the future. Understanding risks by geographic location as it relates to weather and catastrophic events is also helpful in determining how much to reserve and how sustainable that reserve will be over time. If you are unsure of your house corporation’s loss experience, contact your Client Executive at MJ Sorority.
- Starting a reserve fund – organizations can formally designate funds (through Board resolution) to function as an insurance reserve that cannot be spent on other purposes. This can formally separate these funds from operating cash and other financial assets and keep reporting and tracking of these funds segregated within the organization’s financial statements. Organizations can also fund a new reserve by designating surplus dollars annually be deposited into an insurance reserve. Creating a one-time assessment charged to members, or charging a new annual fee are also options to establish a reserve fund or continue to fund reserves.
- Investing your reserve fund – organizations need to consider where reserve funds will be housed and how they will be invested. Organizations should consider a separate investment policy statement for reserve funds. Keeping reserves in short-term insured bank accounts allows for some return on those funds without taking on market risk. Certificates of deposit or sweep accounts can also be used if they do not lock up all funds for specified periods of time. Depending on the size of the reserve, it might make sense to invest in longer-term opportunities to increase investment return. In all cases, liquid cash will need to be accessible to some degree for those claim deductibles should they occur.
- Drawing from your reserve fund – organizations also need to consider how to spend from reserve funds. A policy on spending should be established and should include what constitutes an approved expense, how often reserves can be drawn upon, and what approvals are needed to draw (approvals usually involve Board or Finance Committee approval). Determining a minimum threshold that must be left in the reserve at all times should also be considered.
Blue & Co.’s Not-for-Profit Services Team advises organizations on ways to improve both the balances and the utilization of reserves and liquidity resources to enhance sustainability over time. Please reach out to your local Blue & Co. advisor with any questions regarding these recommendations.
WHY IS HAIL SUCH A PROBLEM FOR YOUR PROPERTY’S ROOFING?
Hail can cause serious damage to your chapter house’s roof. Hail stones are made up of ice and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and weights, which can all contribute to the destruction of your roof after a hailstorm. The weight of hail stones is also a factor that should be taken into account when considering hail resistant roofing as an option. Hail stones can cause dents, cracks, and even holes in your roof, which will leave it vulnerable to water damage and increased energy costs.
COSMETIC/AESTHETIC DAMAGE VERSUS PHYSICAL DAMAGE TO THE ACTUAL ROOF
The insurance industry has previously been willing to repair and/or replace roofs damaged by hail that are more cosmetic in nature or to match the entire roof’s shingles with the new replaced shingles due to actual hail damage. It is fair in saying that these days may be over.
There continues to be significant shifts in the weather patterns in certain parts of the US with increased wind and hail claims. The industry is seeing an increase in the storms producing conditions of hail and wind. There is an increase in the severity of the storms, thus bringing worse damage and the expanse of the areas affected are expanding more easterly than the past.
With the significant increase in hail and wind losses, all insurance companies are being forced to more closely analyze or underwrite each property risk and are looking at numerous alternatives to encourage more roof risk management. Examples we have seen across the insurance industry include:
• Significant increases in wind and hail deductibles in the wind/hail prone areas
• Limitations and exclusions to roof damage repair and replacement
Hail resistant roofing provides property owners an extra layer of protection against the destructive nature of hail stones, which can cause significant damage to traditional shingles and other roofing materials. It can withstand impacts from hail stones at speeds up to 150 mph, which is far stronger than traditional roofing materials. This extra protection minimizes the need to replace your roof after a hailstorm hits, and an additional advantage of impact-resistance roofing is its energy efficiencies, meaning you could save money on energy bills in the long run.
Unlike traditional roofing materials, impact-resistance shingles are designed to last longer, usually up to fifty years. The costs associated with hail resistant roofing materials will vary based on the resistance rating of the materials. These ratings run from Class 1 (least resistance) to Class 4 (highest resistance). Click here to see the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s list of shingle performance ratings. Generally, these roofing materials will cost more than the traditional roofing materials, but they also come with the added protection from hailstorms, last longer than traditional roofing shingles, and provide energy efficiencies.
DON’T WAIT FOR A WIND/HAIL CLAIM TO ADDRESS THE CONDITION OF YOUR ROOF
For the property owners in the following states, there has been significant increases in storms attributing to wind and hail claims:
We urge our clients in these states to take additional measures to have a sound risk management plan in place, to upgrade your roofing materials to the impact-resistance shingles when your roof needs to be upgraded, and should you have a claim, consider upgrading to the preferred materials.
ADDITIONAL ROOFING RISK MANAGEMENT
Travelers Insurance Company, who writes your property insurance, has developed an additional resource for you in your roof property management:
Chubb Insurance, the insurance company who writes your Crime Insurance Coverage, have some basic risk management rules and guidelines for the entities under your organization’s national insurance policy. These conditions are referred to as “required conditions” and list out specific requirements in the financial management to ensure that there is dual control of the financial transactions at all times. Should an embezzlement occur and the dual controls were indeed in place, then the entity would only have to absorb a lower deductible (refer to your Insurance Overview for your organization’s embezzlement limits and deductibles). However, should a claim occur and no dual controls were employed, then the per occurrence deductible would be $150,000 per occurrence.
This requirement by the insurance company hopes to serve two purposes:
- To encourage stronger financial management by all entities of a woman’s fraternity/sorority and
- To be punitive to those who don’t properly manage the exposure.
Maintaining this coverage is extremely critical for our community comprised of primarily volunteer leadership. Thus, the insurance company has placed required conditions on the policy for insureds to qualify for a lower policy retention (deductible). Required Conditions means the Insured Organizations have utilized, prior to the loss sustained, a professional, third party accounting service* to provide the following controls with respect to any Chapter, Local House Corporation or Local Foundation, which will be verified at the time of loss:
- All outgoing electronic payments are subject to segregation of duties between initiation, authorization and release, such that no one individual can control the entire process without oversight by another individual;
- Accounts payable duties are segregated such that no one person can complete a transaction from beginning to end independently under their own authority;
- Monthly bank reconciliation is conducted on all Chapter, Local House Corporation or Local Foundation approved bank accounts by a person that is not authorized to also handle deposits, sign checks or make electronic payments; and
- At least once a month, bank and credit and purchase card accounts are reconciled by a board member or employee other than the board member or employee who is an authorized signatory for such accounts;
- New vendors or any change to existing vendors are approved by a House Corporation board member.
Click here to see claims examples involving embezzlement that might be useful for determining your various exposures to this type of risk.
We are confident that our clients recognize this risk to financial management and have implemented these required conditions as recommended. Should you have additional questions, please consult with your Client Executive at MJ Sorority.
*We have come to understand that this accounting service is generally being utilized, so it likely will not be a change for your operation. The policy requires the chapters/house corporations/local foundations have a professional, third -party accounting service in place at the time of a loss to qualify for the lower deductible should a loss occur. Examples of this would be an accounting firm or one of the accounting service providers in the fraternal community, such as OmegaFi and Billhighway/GreekBill.
The ruling body for fire safety codes is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This entity determines the fire safety codes and is the recognized standard by which all businesses are to follow.
It is the NFPA that sets the codes for the types of sprinkler systems that must be or can be installed in a building primarily based on its occupancy. In 1896, they developed the first code for systems in residential or habitational type occupancies: NFPA 13.
NFPA 13 is designed to serve two distinct purposes:
- To eliminate the risk of bodily injury or death of residents/guests
- To significantly reduce fire damage to the property and any subsequent water damage from the fire response efforts
The building must be 100% sprinklered including attic space whether accessible or not. The costs to install can be substantial for the following reasons:
- Piping must be steel which is more labor intensive to fabricate.
- Attics must be also be sprinklered.
- Aesthetic work is more substantial with the exposed steel pipes.
For a variety of reasons such as cost and labor, NFPA came out with a modified code in the 1970s for residential housing: NFPA 13R (Residential). The main purpose of this risk management tool was purely the protection of lives, unlike NFPA 13 which also was protecting the physical property.
A criterion for the residential housing was that the structure had to be less than four stories in height. As such, the sorority chapter houses did qualify for 13R status, with the only caveat being the attics were not to be used for any purposes and were to have limited access to the attic space.
When the interest for sprinkler systems began to escalate, we were successful in getting the insurance company to provide substantial credits for a property that met the NFPA 13R code. Even though the primary benefit was life safety or the liability exposure, the insurance company agreed to apply this credit to the property premium due to our rationale, which included the following:
- As generally 57% of the account premium is for the property exposure whereas the liability was only 15% thus the dollar discount was far more substantial
- As an inducement to get the property owners to budget for a sprinkler system
- To support the best risk management tool for life safety of your members, employees and guests
Over the years, we have seen an exposure emerge which has become a challenge, which is that the chapter house attics frequently aren’t sprinklered. Of the six property fires over $100,000 in claim cost, four of them started in the attic, which was unsprinklered and had no other type of fire detection system.
The biggest problem comes from the fact that the fire burns for some time in the attic and/or roof area, and it isn’t until it burns through the attic flooring for the debris to land on the next floor before the sprinkler system is engaged and the fire department is alerted. The second problem then comes when the fire department gets there and has to release far more water than normal to extinguish the fire. Subsequently, you have more of your building damaged by the fire and more water damage in trying to put it out.
The liability insurance company underwriters are still very pleased that there is reduced if not completely eliminated bodily injury exposure, but the property underwriters are growing concerned about the exposure of attic fires.
The obvious solution to this dilemma is to install sprinklers in the attic, but this would be virtually impossible for expense reasons. We have done extensive research on this matter and can reach no other conclusion.
We can however recommend another solution to the fire protection alert delay that presently exists which is the installing of a heat sensor to your existing fire alarm system in the attic space. The fire department gets alerted to a fire much faster than without sensors, and there is ultimately less property damage along with the life safety benefit. For further reading on heat sensors, check out these additional resources.
For more information on preventing phishing scams, review this resource from Chubb, the cyber security carrier for MJ Sorority clients.
Rates of mental illness on campus that were already concerning prior to the onset of the Covid-19 are skyrocketing: one in three college students are suffering from depression and even more have anxiety disorders.
Women’s fraternities and sororities are being called upon to educate their members and volunteers in this area of growing need. From a risk management standpoint, we always recommend that students reach out to their respective campus mental health professionals; however, the mean student-to-counseling-staff ratio at colleges and universities is 1,737:1, according to a survey of counseling center directors. Clearly, the campus counseling services are unable to handle the sheer number of students in need of help.
We have researched several affordable options that you may want to share with your members and volunteers. If you have additional suggestions, please send them to Sara Sterley, Director of Risk Management Education, so that she can continue to update this resource for our client’s use.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
One of the options available for mental health well-being is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI defines a mental illness as a “condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior or mood.” NAMI also states that the first thing those who have or think they might have a mental illness need to know is that “you are not alone.” NAMI provides a variety of resources, trainings, information, programs and tools to help, including:
- Warning Signs and Symptoms – There are many types of conditions classified as mental illness, and each illness has its own set of symptoms. Knowing the signs and symptoms is important as a self-help tool as well as a way to help someone else in need.
- Mental Health Conditions – This section offers information such as an overview, treatment, support and discussion groups for a variety of conditions, including:
- Anxiety disorders.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Bipolar disorder.
- Eating disorders.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- NAMI Blog – Provides blog posts on a variety of topics related to mental illness and well-being. Readers also have the option to search for a specific topic or search by categories or through the archives.
- Video Resource Library – Videos of inspirational stories, public service announcements, education shorts and more.
- Support Groups – Peer-led groups offering participants an opportunity to share their experiences and gain support from other attendees.
- NAMI HelpLine – Available 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday at 800-950-NAMI (6264) or via email at email@example.com.
- Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741 to be connected with a trained crisis counselor to receive free 24/7 crisis support via text message.
- Warning Signs of a Mental Health Crisis – Infographic quickly outlines warning signs and what to do in a mental health crisis.
- Navigating a Mental Health Crisis: A NAMI Resource Guide for Those Experiencing a Mental Health Emergency – Guide outlines what can contribute to a crisis, warning signs that a crisis is emerging, strategies to de-escalate a crisis, available resources and more.
Mental Health America
Mental Health America is a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of people living with mental illness. The organization has offices and branches around the country, and a comprehensive “finding help” tool that includes self-assessment tools, links to finding someone in your community to talk to, and even tips on how to make the most of your relationship with a therapist or social worker, as well as a crisis number you can call in case of emergency (1-800-273-TALK).
Additionally, Mental Health America offers resources specifically geared toward college students, and they’ll help with other aspects of your life that may be impacted by mental health issues.
One of the best and most overlooked services is the 211 service that most municipal areas have. You can dial to find out about mental health, counseling, or other resources available in your community and beyond. The FCC’s “Dial 211″ info page has a wealth of information about what you can learn when you call them.
They don’t offer mental health and counseling services directly, but they can refer you to appropriate services in your area. 211 is free, but some of the services they have access to aren’t, so keep that in mind.
Talkspace is one of the original online therapy companies that enables users to connect with licensed mental health professionals based on their individual needs. There are various subscription levels available depending on one’s budget and needs.
Additionally, Talkspace offers corporate discounts for organizations who may want to offer the platform to their members.
Apple’s 2017 App of the Year, Calm is an app that helps you build a meditation practice that has been proven to help alleviate stress and anxiety. In addition, there are options to aid sleep. It really helps to develop a daily practice, and also enjoy a moment of calm and peacefulness when the day becomes too stressful. Many of the meditations are free, but some of the sessions are locked unless you subscribe.
What’s up is a free app that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) methods to help users cope with depression, anxiety, stress, and more. What’s Up offers additional resources and services to large groups like sororities to boost the mental health of their constituents.
Headspace is another free app that is rooted in the science of meditation. It has series of guided and unguided meditations, and plenty of other relevant content to listen in your own time and at your own pace.
SuperBetter is a game focused on increasing resiliency, strength, and optimism. When people played SuperBetter for 30 days, their moods improved, symptoms decreased, and self-belief in achieving goals increased, according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania. SuperBetter is designed to help users adopt new habits, strengthen relationships, complete meaningful projects, and achieve lifelong goals. If you still don’t believe that a game can do all of that, watch this viral TED talk from the game’s designer.
Happy to help
This is obviously a huge issue to get our arms around. Let us know how we can come alongside you to bolster the mental health of your members, volunteers, and employees.
|You may or may not have had the opportunity to consider building new or renovating your sorority chapter house. It would be an understatement to say that there has been chaos in the construction market. Cost of materials has skyrocketed, and materials continue to be difficult to come by. A representation from a large national construction firm recently remarked, “rebuilding the same property compared to a year ago would cost at least seventeen percent more. Such increases have been fueled by an overwhelming demand for building materials and the supply chain bottleneck.”|
Why is this important for your chapter house? As an insured, you are obligated under your insurance coverage to insure your building and contents at the valuation of replacement cost, which does not reflect any depreciation of values due to age. The insurance company is then obligated to “repair or replace for like kind and quality” should your property be damaged due to a covered cause of loss.
We are seeing new construction come in at a minimum of $200 per square foot (except in California where it is more like a minimum of $350 per square foot). In looking at near and medium term factors that will continue to affect your property valuation, the effects of inflation combined with more costly natural catastrophes, which are occurring far more frequently.
The issue of valuation is further complicated in catastrophe-prone areas by the fact that potentially thousands of insured businesses will be seeking construction and professional services, such as roofers and other trades, to begin repairs on their properties at the same time. As a result, the costs of labor and materials will increase substantially (often ten to fifteen percent increases), which will then impact the cost of the claim.
Another influence we have been noticing in the Sorority Department is a substantial increase in the cost of a claim. Our records indicate a jump over the last six years of 223 percent on average.
We want to continue to make you aware of the trends in the marketplace. If you want to discuss your current insurance limits, we encourage you to reach out to your Client Executive to ensure you are adequately insured in light of the rapidly changing market conditions.
Originally published in the April 2022 News & Notes.
Every state has laws regarding the care and maintenance of certain mechanical pieces of equipment that potentially pose a greater risk to residents/occupants/guests in a sorority chapter house. This exposure is often referred to as boiler and pressurized vessels. We generally think of the steam operated boilers that heat a house; however, even hot water heaters in some states are also included.
Generally speaking, these laws require: (1) an operating permit to be obtained from the State Department or jurisdiction prior to operating a regulated boiler or pressure vessel; (2) all operating permit inspections to be performed by a boiler or pressure vessel inspector licensed by the Department; and (3) the Department to perform operating permit inspections on all regulated boiler or pressure vessels owned by the state.
Your insurance coverage for boilers and pressurized vessels is part of your property insurance coverage. In addition to paying for a claim should one of these items explode, the coverage also provides extensive safety engineering and inspection services which will ultimately minimize the potential for a loss.
As the law prescribes, inspections must be performed on a regular basis as determined by the state law. These could be anywhere from a quarterly to an annual inspection. As part of your insurance premium, these inspections are done by your property insurer Travelers Insurance Company, and they are free of charge.
The jurisdiction however should they be asked to inspect by the building owner would have a fee attached to that service, thus why we encourage our clients to rely exclusively upon your insurance company to fulfill this role.
There are basically two separate transactions with this exposure:
- Safety inspection-offered free of charge by the insurance company
- Issuance of the certification that is placed on the item that has a small fee assessed for the certificate by the jurisdiction, which the property owner will be responsible for paying as this is not included in the insurance coverage
The process is as follows:
- 30-45 days prior to the expiration date of the boiler or other item, Travelers secures from MJ the contact information for the house corporation and the property is inspected by a Travelers Risk Control representative. This contact person will also be receiving the invoice from the state for the issuance of the certificate. They will also be the individual receiving the certificate back from the state.
- During the inspection, they will be commenting on anything related to equipment-electrical exposures, panel concerns, etc.
- The report of the inspection is sent to the house corporation with any violations or items noted that will need to be addressed by the property owner.
- Upon addressing the violations or items, Travelers then sends the status to the jurisdiction.
- The jurisdiction will send an invoice to the property owner and once the invoice is paid, the certification will be provided.
- The certificate then needs to be prominently posted to provide to a fire marshal or someone from the jurisdiction requesting proof of the inspection.
- Should there be a mix up with Travelers missing the inspection and the state must do the inspection and then charge you, let us know as we will work with Travelers to pay that costs.