Ask The Expert: Daniel Odess Dishes On How Luxury Homeowners Can Prepare For Natural Disasters

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December 2017 ©MBKoeth

Haute Residence caught up with Daniel Odess, CEO of GlobalPro Recovery who dishes how luxury homeowners can protect their assets in case of natural disaster, how to plan for the worst before the worst hits and the most common insurance cases seen.

Photo credit: ©MBKoeth

 

What is your number one advice to luxury homebuyers as they purchase homes in high-risk weather zones?

Flooding is the number one loss affecting homeowners in the US market. Therefore, luxury homebuyers purchasing homes in high-risk weather zones need to first check flood maps and building elevations because it may be very costly and restrictive to ensure, modify and/or improve the property. Since a property at or below certain flood elevations is more prone to damage, you may be looking at significant costs to bring the property up to code. Worse, some of these required improvements will be most likely not covered by flood insurance resulting in high out of pocket expenses.

Protect yourself from building inspectors by ensuring that their reports accurately reflect the quality of the property. The inspection report needs to properly identify the cause and origin as well a proper cost assessment. Take the time to further investigate all issues and document any efforts to mitigate, even if its paid for by the seller. Retaining this proof of repair will avoid any prejudice in future insurance claims. If not, you may find yourself impacted by the misreporting of issues in future claims.

 

What are the top things people should always make sure to have ready in order to be best prepared for an unexpected natural disaster? 

First, always retain electronic copies of your insurance policies by storing them in cloud-based servers, like Dropbox or iCloud. This will ensure that you have access to your records when you need them most without relying upon your broker, agent, and/or assistant; while you’re dealing with damage to your property, they may be doing the same. Also, most of the time, communication is very limited during natural disasters that affect large areas. It is important to note that most homeowner policies stipulate that the claim needs to be reported directly to the insurance company, not the agent. Without the policies, you will delay the process and unaware of your rights, limits and obligations.

Secondly, for luxury property owners, I strongly suggest a contingency plan: where are u going to go? Most luxury properties are located close to coastal areas, so while you should have emergency supplies in case you are stranded, you should also have a well thought out evacuation plan. Be honest, you are most likely not going to stay in a property that is located near or on the ocean. Evacuating from these areas is not easy and it takes a considerable amount of time and money. The roads are very restricted and they get very congested.

 

What are the top things people should always make sure to have ready in order to be best prepared for an unexpected construction disaster? 

When it comes to a construction issue, document retention is paramount to asserting claims. Throughout the construction project, take documentary photographs of all angles, not just the ones for social media. It goes without saying that you need to hire competent individuals that can document their efforts and the construction project. It’s important to retain all original construction documents, such as plans, permits, and paid invoices. Ensure that you retain updated certificates of insurance for all of your retained professionals, i.e.: architect and engineer, as well as the general contractor, suppliers, and subcontractors. With any construction project, you need to make sure all suspected construction-related defects are properly documented and timely notice to the correct respondents, which may include multiple parties. It is important to keep in mind that most construction claims are defended and paid for by insurance companies. Therefore, you must abide by contract terms and conditions and the language in documents and reports is essential to the success of your claim(s). Hiring competent experts in the field of insurance is a viable option that most do not consider and opt for costly litigation.

 

What are the most common insurance cases seen in your area of expertise?

Right now, water pipe breaks in condominiums and drain line failures in homes. On the commercial side, it’s construction-related damages mostly related to roofs and concrete.

 

How did you get started in this area of the industry?

I grew up in the construction business and while in engineering school I continued to build residential properties and learn engineering principles. During the recession, I had an opportunity to get into the insurance industry and my late father in law took me under his wing and taught me the insurance adjusting business whereby I was able to leverage my knowledge expertise and education in construction and engineering to assist policyholders with their recovery of loses. Thereafter I obtained a license as an insurance agent, general contractor and public adjuster and established GlobalPro Recovery in 2012. Since then I have opened 2 fully staffed offices (one in Miami and one in NY) and shortly thereafter one in Orlando.

 

What should luxury property owners look out for when purchasing insurance?

Obtaining a full copy of the proposed insurance policy which should include known exclusions and limitations is imperative. What’s happening right now is that people are getting quotes making decisions based on costs not based on actual coverage and access to dispute remedies. You’ll want to look out for limitations on coverage for water, mold, sewer backup and wind-driven rain. Additionally, there is a growing trend of policies that require arbitration and a choice of law outside of Florida which could significantly increase the cost of litigating a dispute with your insurance company and may limit your entitlement to recoveries.

 

What can luxury property owners do to prepare for an oncoming natural disaster?

Most people know that you should bring outdoor furniture, buy water and supplies etc., but for a high net worth individual that owns a luxury property, it is important that you photograph your property and take videos before and after the natural disaster. Don’t rely on someone else to do it; keep these photographs with you. You also don’t want to rely on your broker to have a copy of the policy on hand when they come back to the area – remember, like you brokers and agents are evacuating themselves, but unlike you, brokers and agents may not have the resources to sustain long periods of no power or electricity so they will be taking care of their own needs – make sure you have the tools in your hands to be able to report your claim yourself.  Your agent isn’t a claims professional. Also, lineup emergency services, like standby generators and mitigation contractors; some take deposits upfront to secure equipment and manpower.

 

What is the one thing you wish people knew before they sustain damages?

That their insurance agents are not claiming professionals and they shouldn’t rely on their agents to accurately report and handle claims for them. While luxury property owners may utilize certain tax and liability safeguards, what they don’t realize is that at times those tax savings or protective liability safeguards may actually increase the cost of insurance and limit the availability of certain coverages that would otherwise be available to those that did not.

 

If one were to utilize an advisor with more of a robust knowledge of insurance like GlobalPro to work with their financial advisor, they may realize that while they may be saving on taxes or doing things for liability reasons there may not be any net savings and they may be unknowingly increasing cost for no reason. Very few high net worth individuals take into consideration how the structure of their assets affects the cost and availability of insurance.

 

When is the best time for luxury property owners to call GlobalPro? Before the disaster? After?

Both before and after are all good times to contact us, but in a perfect world you’d want to contact us first so that we can prepare all of the proper documentation and have it set up and ready for you after the storm. We offer a 360-degree approach to insurance. We are there when you place insurance and when you need to recover. Unlike brokers and agents we do not run away from the oncoming disaster, we go towards it. We are on the front lines as the eyes and ears for our clients, ensuring that their interests are protected. We are on the ground accurately reporting the damages and the progress of the mitigation efforts.

By contacting us before a disaster strikes, we can familiarize ourselves with the risk and document the assets ahead of time by taking photographs, video and by collecting all the documentation necessary to expeditiously file, adjust and settle a claim. During and after a major disaster communication is typically limited and conditions are unsafe due to a lack of utilities. Our team is safely stationed throughout the threat area ready to respond to our client needs. Proprietary technology and equipment allow us to do our job in almost any condition. Doing this ahead of time is the best way to position yourself for a full and expeditious recovery to make sure you have the right policy to recover from your damages.

However, if you tried to handle your own loss or engaged incompetent representation, we routinely reopen, investigate and resubmit claims for insureds. Our team has sorted through thousands of denied losses, avoided litigation, and obtain recoveries for our clients. While it’s the most ideal situation, we stand ready to assist anyone that has already filed a claim.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with luxury property owners?

The insurance industry is fast changing, especially with the instruction of more technology and claimed artificial intelligence. Policies are becoming increasingly more restrictive and the courts are constantly issuing new and different opinions that serve to interpret the intent of the terms and conditions. Couple all of this with the constantly changing political environment and economy, you will quickly realize that the cards are stacked against the policyholder.

Open your eyes to the possibility that you do not know it all and that like taxes and other courtroom battles, you need representation. We encourage you to cooperate with your broker and insurance company but understand their roles and interests in the claims process and how you may better serve your interests by engaging experts like GlobalPro. We find that advisors either legal or financial routinely understand this principle and increasingly we hear from these professionals. Listen to those professionals and get the support you deserve when you purchase insurance and when you recover from the loss.

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