We know that the real estate community and our members have many questions about insurance in this era when their businesses are being severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis and thank you as a long time member and past-CIASF President for sharing your views. Can you comment on how your business at Acentria Insurance has changed since the COVID 19 entered the picture?
Like many businesses, we are used to our staff being together in the local offices. Now we have almost all 1100 team members working remotely from home and it has changed our strategies to communicate together and maintain quality of service to our clients. One side benefit is not commuting to and from the office which gives us all more time now to get things done.
Many members are thinking about whether their business interruption insurance can provide funds to help during this crisis. What obstacles are you seeing to business interruption insurance claims?
We are receiving many calls asking how insurance can help when a business has been closed due to this virus pandemic. In this case, the business interruption coverage would apply. The specific types of coverage the business has and the insurance policy language will determine how insurance will or will not apply. Our suggestion to all our clients is to place the claim and let the process work itself through. An insurance advisor should always be consulted before filing a claim.
We realize this needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis after reviewing policy language, but can you help us understand what losses business interruption insurance covers?
Business interruption insurance is designed to help a business cover its fixed expenses and income so it can stay in business if an event causes the business to close- for example, events such as fires and hurricanes. Coverage would help a business owner cover expenses such as rent, utilities, payroll, and loss of profits (which is normally the income of the business owners.) We advise business owners to make a claim, if they have business interruption coverage, and then deal with obstacles if they come up. Whether a claim is paid or not has a lot to do with how it is reported which is why it’s important to consult an insurance advisor who understands the policy coverages and exclusions. Larger businesses may need to involve other professionals such as an attorney and CPA, especially for financial claims like loss of income.
We have seen speculation that a state or federal government may mandate coverage for COVID related claims, and then provide financial support to insurers to compensate for the mandate.
The idea of insurance is to make someone whole again. The idea isn’t that someone would be better off – but that their economic position would not be adversely affected and whether the government stimulus will do the job or if there is a way to distribute this through insurance carriers. Still too early to say what they will decide since they have been prioritizing the health concerns and getting the stimulus money out.
Do you think that this crisis will cause business interruption insurers to revisit the pandemic/virus exclusion?
Every time we have a major event causing catastrophic damage, insurance carriers decide how to incorporate them into the policies. Remember most of the coverages are designed to allow funding for things like investments or construction. There are already considerations for global pandemics and governmental actions in policies. I’m here if anyone needs my help.
If you had a crystal ball, what do you think the long term effect will be?
I think this situation will teach us a lot about areas for improvement in our healthcare services, our strategies for the “normal” workplace, and how we can all benefit from using technology better. In the future, I expect we will return very much to how things were before. In the meantime, I wish the best for all the other members of the CIASF and look forward to seeing everyone again soon… hopefully less than 6 feet away.
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