Insurance coverage is top of mind for Florida’s commercial property owners following the damage left from Hurricane Irma.

Building owners had rushed to review their policies to determine whether they had adequate insurance coverage in place in preparation for the storm.

GlobeSt.com caught up with Tom Kersting, president of the insurance services division of Franklin Street, and Nancy Sheinberg, vice president of insurance services, to discuss how insurance providers are helping property owners navigate their Irma policy claims.

GlobeSt.com: What pre-hurricane steps did your team take to help expedite the claims process?

Kersting: We spent several days on the front end of Irma communicating with our clients, pushing out proactive risk management tips, encouraging them to review coverages and make sure they had their policies readily available post-storm. This information is provided when our clients bind policies, but it becomes important to “refresh” as a major storm approaches. This year we also developed a variety of digital tools so clients can easily get in touch with us and report claims if they have one.

Sheinberg: What we did before the storm really made a big difference. An emergency claims phone system was set up so clients were getting a call back within minutes of submitting a claim. Franklin Street has also developed a proprietary master policy layered program that can save property owners thousands of dollars both regionally and nationally, while meeting all lender requirements. Hurricane Irma is showing that our insurance coverages are solid, so it gives credence to the program.

GlobeSt.com: What type of insurance claims are you getting most frequently?

Sheinberg: What we’re seeing most are trees down and roof damage from fallen trees or water leakage. But we still have many clients in South Florida who haven’t been able to get to their properties to inspect the damage.

Kersting: Much of the damage that has been reported to us has been to our multifamily properties.  Often multifamily assets are wood-framed buildings that are generally not as protected as office buildings.

The majority of our claims are coming from the east side of the state. We still expect more claims to come in, at this point some owners haven’t been able to visit their properties yet.

This is especially the case with out-of-town owners who may have difficulty getting access for a few more days. In other cases, it’s common for owners to be aware of damage but they haven’t decided yet if they want to report a claim or go about funding repairs themselves.

GlobeSt.com: What are some important lessons learned from Hurricane Irma?

Kersting: From an insurance stand point, there haven’t been major insurance claims incidents in Florida for over 10 years. An event like Hurricane Irma makes policy holders reevaluate their insurance coverage and take a hard look at their deductible levels.

These are conversations that need to be had, we don’t want our clients to be surprised in a time that they turn to their insurance carrier for help.  We continuously push to educate our clients about their coverage options and show them how their insurance policy will be a valuable tool to protect their balance sheet, not simply an expense burden that appeases a lender.

(There are legal issues involved in filing insurance claims of which you may not be aware. Find out what you must know now to avoid felonies.)

 

Source: GlobeSt.

Energy-efficient buildings have lower operating costs, but also tend to command higher rents and enjoy higher occupancy and tenant retention levels than traditional buildings.

A recent Energy Efficiency Survey, developed by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) in collaboration with the Institute for Market Transformation, looked at what motivates office building owners to improve energy performance. The survey focused on how financial methods used to evaluate capital expenditures impact decisions to invest in improving energy efficiency.

IREM and the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) distributed the survey to their members and received 307 responses, which represented 1.7 percent of the total survey distribution. The survey found that most respondents use simple payback calculations to evaluate energy efficiency projects, usually basing decisions on recovering the investment in one to two years. The study revealed that this simple payback does not capture the full benefits of energy efficiency, like Net Present Value (NPV) analysis, which incorporates potential revenue increases from higher rental income.

The survey also found that building owners are more inclined to invest in energy-efficiency improvements if they can charge higher rents, particularly in split-incentive situations, where energy-cost savings accrue solely to tenants. Split incentives had posed a barrier to investing in improving energy efficiency, but this was overcome with the “green lease,” which requires tenants to participate in energy and water conservation programs.

Additionally, the survey noted that while the property manager is responsible for the building’s everyday energy management, the asset manager usually makes the final decision on whether to invest in improving energy performance. When third-party managers have authorization to make capital expenditures it is usually a small dollar amount of $25,000 or less.

“But that authority exists almost not at all,” according to Brenna Walraven, founder/CEO of Corporate Sustainability Strategies Inc., which provides sustainability strategy development and execution plans.

CBRE’s Global Director of Corporate Responsibility David Pogue notes he is surprised IREM’s study focused on energy efficiency.

“Energy efficiency was a singular topic a decade ago, when everyone began getting buildings Energy Star-certified,” Pogue says.

Pogue was less surprised by the low rate of survey respondents, which he suggested is an indication that people viewed the survey topic as old news. When a 2009 study of 150 Energy Star buildings in 10 markets revealed that these buildings were commanding rent premiums of three to five percent and enjoyed high occupancy levels, landlords of class-A office buildings got on board, but those with lower quality assets did not necessarily.

“Today most of the office sector has broadly adapted green practices, though not every building is necessarily certified by a green-rating system,” Pogue says.

The 2016 Green Building Adoption Index study by the CBRE Group Inc. and Maastricht University showed that the rate of growth in ‘green’ building has slowed, rising from 39.3 percent in 2014 to just 40.2 percent last year, but adoption of green building practices in the 30 largest U.S. cities continues to be significant.

“While the rate of growth in ‘green’ buildings has slowed modestly, our latest study underscores that in most major markets, sustainable office space has become the ‘new normal,” Pogue notes.

The study reported that 11.8 percent of U.S. office buildings, representing 40.2 percent of office space, have been certified by either the U.S. Green Energy Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or the U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Star program.

“However, that nearly 40 percent of high-profile office buildings in core urban markets are green-certified because they have to be green to compete,” Pogue adds. “Those buildings tend to attract high-profile tenants, who demand a high-performance building environment.”

LEED rates a building’s impact on the environment, but Pogue points out that the next level of certification, International WELL Building Institute, rates a building’s impact on occupants. The WELL Building Standard places health at the center of indoor design, incorporating healthy ideas based on seven concept categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

 

Source: NREI

Westpoint Retail Plaza

Castle Real Estate Enterprises has engaged Ven-American Real Estate, Inc. to exclusively manage and lease Westpoint Retail Plaza, an immaculate 16,655-square foot neighborhood center, located at 10101-10251 W. Commercial Blvd. in Tamarac.

Tenants at the center include Dunkin Donuts, Subway, AT&T, Rotelli Pizza & Pasta, CareSpot Urgent Care, Gentle Dentistry, Brightway Insurance and Liberty Tax.

Under Ven-American Real Estate’s management, Subway held a Grand Re-Opening, unveiling a new mouth-watering store redesign focused on integrating technology into all aspects of the restaurant design.

Only one of every five Subway shops in the entire United States will feature this design, which includes:

 

  • All new décor, equipment and design
  • New self-ordering kiosks, allowing guests to “skip the line” and get in and out quicker
  • New touchscreen fountain beverage machine with flavor-customization capability
  • New digital menu display
  • New coffee and specialty coffee program using freshly-ground coffee beans
  • New Panini sandwich press
  • New sauces and toppings

Subway’s goal with the new design is to create a more welcoming and comfortable environment for “this generation’s consumer” while continuing its dedication to delivering the same delicious, fresh and healthy food products the brand has provided since 1965.

Andrew Kruss

“We are very honored to be a part of this technology-centric Subway store concept,” commented Andrew Kruss, Director of Commercial Services for Ven-American Real Estate, Inc.  “It’s the first one in the entire state of Florida, and being a part of any ‘first’ is always exciting,” he added.

The shopping center has also begun a “redesign” of its own.  The property has recently been freshly painted. In addition, plans call for an upgrade to the lighting throughout property – not only for energy efficiency purposes, but to provide a better quality of light and coverage, as well as reducing maintenance costs.

“Our goal is to continue to make tenants and visitors feel safe and make the property more aesthetically pleasing at night,” said Kruss.

Andrew Kruss is a Ygrene Certified Contractor and has helped many clients improve their energy and water efficiency. Projects include lighting, HVAC, roofing, energy controls and impact windows. At Monarch Commerce Center in Miramar, Florida, another Ven-American Real Estate, Inc.-managed property, Kruss was able to reduce energy consumption by approximately 40% while improving light coverage and quality.

“We have also reduced lighting related maintenance costs by approximately $5,700 per year,” Kruss explained.

Andrew Kruss has owned, managed, leased and sold commercial property for thirty years. He is a practical, solution-oriented, hands-on manager who believes in efficiency in property management and energy sustainability solutions.

Kruss added, “We look forward to working with the tenants and Castle Real Estate Enterprises to make the property more attractive, efficient and productive for the entire community’s benefit.”

The shopping center, conveniently located along the Sunrise/Tamarac city boundary, features 150 parking spaces, AT&T Fiber and Comcast Cable, as well as excellent visibility facing busy Commercial Blvd. cross streets Nob Hill Road & Hiatus Road, with 50,000 vehicles per day traveling between the neighborhood thoroughfares. The property is also located adjacent to heavily-traveled Sawgrass Expressway.

Rising Sea Levels

Parts of Miami Beach could be inundated with flood waters in as little as 15 years, and property values may slide amid the rising tide, according to nearly two dozen university heads and climate change experts who were on hand to answer questions on the effects of sea-level rise on South Florida during a Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce event at the W Hotel.

Flooding in Miami Beach

Flooding in Miami Beach

The purpose of the recent event, organized by land use and environmental attorney Wayne Pathman, was to warn business owners, developers, and contractors that the effects of sea-level rise will be impacting the property values fairly soon. Already, media around the globe are publicizing the fact that South Florida is “ground zero” for the adverse economic impact of sea-level rise, Pathman argued. Unfortunately, the region is still behind in preparing its infrastructure for the future.

“All eyes are upon us and South Florida isn’t ready,” said Pathman, co-founder of the Downtown Miami-based law firm of Pathman Lewis LLP and future chairman of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Thanks to a slowing gulfstream, warming oceans, and ice flows submerging beneath the ocean from Greenland and Antarctica, the oceans are rising faster than ever, said Keren Bolter, research coordinator for Florida Atlantic University Center for the Environmental Studies. This has caused an increase in flooding events in recent years and it will only get worse. By 2100, the oceans are projected to increase by seven feet, Bolter added. At that level, The Keys, along with large chunks of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, will be inundated with sea water at high tide, destroying fresh water reserves, compromising underground sewage lines and septic tanks, and creating a host of other problems.

But you don’t have to wait 84-years to see the adverse effects of sea-level rise. Bolter said that in as little as 15 years, flooding in Belle Isle will grow much worse, especially at Island Terrace, a 16-story condo built in 1967. “It’s coming up not just at the sides,” she said while showing Lidar maps depicting future sea-level rise at Island Terrace and Belle Isle.

“It comes up from underground. That’s partly because the limestone that South Florida land is predominately made of us is extremely porous. Because of this, not even sea walls will stop the flow of water,” Bolter said.  “By 2060 the oceans are projected to rise by two feet. At that level, “the western half of Miami Beach is under water.”

“As the oceans rise, the cost of insurance will skyrocket,” Pathman said.  “Meanwhile, in an attempt to cope with the new reality, community leaders will raise taxes while property taxes are declining. As for the infrastructure of future residential and commercial projects, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado recently declared on a radio show that the financial burden will fall on developers. However, at least some of the negative impacts of sea level rise can be mitigated if the business community takes a leadership role now. Many places around the world have already started adapting.”

Among the invited guests at the chamber event were Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg, Florida Atlantic University President John Kelly, and University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Dean Roni Avissar. They argued that their respective colleges are already training scientists and engineers who are not only studying the future effects of climate change, but also figuring out solutions on how communities like South Florida can adapt.

“We are very fortunate that we have a strong university system and a strong system of public education,” argued Matthew Welker, principal of MAST Academy at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus. “That’s a very valuable resource.”

Josh Sawislak, global director of resilience for the Los Angeles-based engineering firm AECOM, said Miami could even replace Amsterdam as the true innovator of anti-flooding solutions.

“The brand can be, ‘This is a resilient city… Don’t go to Amsterdam to see how to prevent from being cut off by the sea, although they’ve got tasty cheeses. Come to Miami and see how to live with water,’” Sawislak declared.

One innovative idea has already been hatched in Miami. Rather than fight sea level rise, Bolter of FAU pointed out that “one student from the University of Miami” came up with the idea of simply making western Miami Beach “floodable” with the creation of new bays and living shorelines along with new boardwalks and flood-adapted buildings. (The UM student in question who developed that plan is Isaac Stein, who now works for the urban planning and landscape firm West 8.)

Besides speeches from experts, the event included an hour-long breakout session where business leaders sat at tables and asked questions to the assembled experts, some of whom flew in from other parts of the country to be there. The media, however, was ushered away from the session. Upon hearing that reporters were even present at the event, Donald Kipnis, founder and CEO of Brickell-based Development Service Solutions, walked out. Dozens of other chamber members left before the session even ended.

Harold Wanless, chair of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Miami, didn’t think the breakout session was long enough. Experts barely had 10 minutes to answer business leaders’ questions or lay out what needs to be done.

“We need to be planning, that is the bottom line,” said Wanless, who has long studied past sea-level rise events in Florida.

Following the breakout session, Jessica Goldman Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties, applauded the panel’s efforts. She also urged some restraint. Showing slides that show Miami Beach being submerged is what “gets picked up by the news.”

“We have to be very… strategic about how we discuss the reality of sea level rise,” Goldman said.

Pathman said the purpose of the event was just to “whet everyone’s appetite.” On September 14, the chamber plans to hold a roundtable discussion with “leading political and civic leaders about current and future strategies for sea level rise in South Florida” at a location to be announced.

 

Source: The Real Deal

museum park rendering

Miami is considering a move to redevelop a park along Biscayne Bay downtown, according to a news report.

The Miami City Commission will consider giving a conservancy control of Museum Park, the South Florida Business Journal reported.

The park is home to the Perez Art Museum and the Frost Science Museum, which is under construction. The 22.5-acre park is in a prime location for the city and for years there’s been debate about how to improve it for residents and visitors.

A city-commissioned plan in 2008 by Cooper, Robinson & Partners highlighted a future Museum Park with more shade trees, water features and a restaurant, but the city hasn’t acted on it – until now. The park is currently managed by the Bayfront Trust, a quasi-city agency.

The commission was scheduled to vote on Jan. 14 on turning over management, events and development of the park to a new non-profit called the Museum Park Conservancy. Yet, the item was deferred to a later date by the city. The framework of the potential deal was included on the city agenda.

The conservancy could charge for events and naming rights at the park and allow the sale of alcoholic beverages at the park during special events. The conservancy would actively solicit donations to support the park and its development, which is currently not allowed under the Bayfront Trust structure.

The conservancy promised to show the city proof within 90 days that it’s raised at least $7.5 million for the park. The group says it already has this money. However, the conservancy could not start managing the operations of Museum Park until after the first phase of the development breaks ground. That could occur in about 18 months, according to the proposed agreement.

The proposed deal between the city and conservatory refers to the Cooper, Robinson study as the “master plan.” The conservancy would have to submit its annual audited financial statements to the city. The city commission would have the right to abolish the conservancy at any time and retake control of the park with 180 days notice.

According to city documents, the conservancy would be governed by a board of 10 to 15 directors. They would be appointed by the mayor, the city commission, the city manager, a non-profit called Friends of Museum Park, and also appointed by the sitting conservancy board. The Miami Foundation is currently working to establish the conservancy.

 

Source: SunSentinel

It may be true that all real estate is local. But it is also true that real estate has become a global business.

Yet the way that real estate is measured continues to be based on local practices. This is about to change with the work being done by the International Property Measurement Standards (IPMS) Coalition. The coalition – of which IREM recently became a member – is an international group of professional and not-for-profit organizations working collaboratively to develop and help implement a single global property measurement standard.

The IPMS coalition came together out of a globally recognized need for, and with the goal of creating, a shared international standard for property measurement. Currently, the way real property assets are measured can differ dramatically from one asset class to another and from country to country. This makes it extremely challenging for global investors and occupiers to accurately compare space. Indeed, a property’s floor area measurement can deviate by as much as 24 percent, depending on the method used, according to research findings by the international commercial real estate services and investment management firm JLL. As declared by the trustees of the IPMS coalition, “Our profession and marketplaces deserve better.”

In advancing IREM as a member of this coalition, IREM President Joseph Greenblatt, CPM, asserted that, “Real estate today is playing out on the world stage, underscoring the growing need for internationally uniform industry standards and practices. With members in 39 countries and on six continents, IREM enthusiastically supports the efforts of the IPMSC to establish globally consistent and recognized property measurement standards, confident that they will lead to greater marketplace transparency, stronger investor and public confidence, and increased market stability.”

The IPMS coalition was organized in May 2013, and already is nearing completion of its initial standards for measurement of offices. Work has already begun on IPMS for residential properties; this will be followed by industrial, retail, and other sectors.

IREM is one of 44 organizations that comprise the IPMS coalition, all of which have committed to promoting the implementation of property measurement standards and encouraging world markets to accept and adopt the IMPS as the primary method of property measurement.

 

Source: NREI

On any given day, many of facilities management tasks are focused on conserving energy.

Whether it’s scrutinizing utility bills, making adjustments in the BAS, or championing for efficient retrofits, saving kilowatts never falls off the to-do list. But one that may been overlooked is one of the most important factors for energy performance – occupants.

The relationship facility managers have with tenants can be a wary one at best, fraught with skirmishes over space heaters, thermostat settings, and light levels. But with the growing impact of plug loads, building owners need to recognize that human behavior can make or break an efficiency program.

Consider how the vast majority of a building’s energy use is determined by occupant needs, from operating hours and lighting to heating and cooling. You might also have little to no control over the proliferation of computers, printers, desk lamps, and mobile devices that have become standard in any office or classroom setting.

“Plug loads can represent anywhere from 15 to 50% of a building’s energy use and are one of the fastest growing end uses of energy,” says Jaxon Love, sustainability program manager for Shorenstein Properties. “If you’re not looking at plug loads and developing a strategy to manage them, you’ve got a major blind spot in your overall energy efficiency program.”

Energy competitions unite occupants and facilities management as they work toward a common goal. Not only will plug loads become more manageable, but the nature of these challenges will engender a positive experience that can infect all aspects of your business model.

“Successfully engaging occupants as part of a performance team offers many advantages to the building owner,” says Alison Liaboe, director of communications and research for Ecova, an energy and sustainability management firm. “This includes reducing turnover, minimizing the cost of building operations, and increasing tenant referrals. A better performing building also benefits workers by improving their health and productivity.”

Nagging occupants to turn off equipment has never resulted in sustained energy savings – make them an extension of your FM team instead. By engaging tenants with fun and creative programs, property managers can turn passive employees into energy champions. The only loser is your utility bill.

To read about the energy conservation program developed by Shorenstein Properties that has resulted in up to 45% energy savings click here.

 

Source: Buildings.com

What criteria do companies use in choosing office locations?

Many are obvious, as they have been important since high-rises first began to dot the U.S. landscape: centralized location, convenient highway or public transit access, adequate office space, ample parking, and amenities like in-building or nearby food vendors.

Increasingly, though, facility managers and the executive teams they work with are assessing a latter-day criterion that is becoming as important as any: Is the building “cloud-ready”? Companies are ever more reliant on high-speed network connectivity to the Internet and other essential services, including access to public or private clouds—which are a popular alternative to on-site servers by providing secure storage of, and access to, data and software programs.

Buildings that are not “cloud-ready” are (in the minds of many decision makers) about as useful as offices without electricity or bathrooms. Consider these statistics: Global IT traffic has increased more than fourfold in the past five years, and will increase threefold over the next five years. And, the number of devices connected to IP networks will be nearly three times as high as the global population in 2017.

As Candace London, senior vice president for Spectrum Commercial Real Estate Solutions concurred, the question from those seeking office space used to be: “does the building have high-speed Internet?” but in the near future, the question will be “is it cloud-ready?” So, yes, the ability to connect seamlessly to the cloud, via the Internet, is a 21st century essential.

While many service providers offer high-speed, broad-bandwidth network access, and others offer a full complement of cloud services, very few offer both. And those that do are finding growing numbers of customers, ready to sign up for their services.

Another important consideration is that today’s facilities don’t have to be physically located on a fiber optic network to access cloud services–as long as they are close. Many fiber providers are now extending their networks to “near-net” buildings that are a short distance (within 1,500 feet) of their fiber rings.

What exactly is a cloud-ready building? It has one or more providers who have installed high-speed connectivity to the building’s basement equipment room (on-net) or who, in a matter of days/weeks, can complete a build-out to connect the building to its nearby fiber-optic network ring (near-net).

As network connectivity to the building is being established, it is a relatively simple process of running the chosen fiber-optic network cables into the particular floor or suite requesting it. Then, the right network provider can optimize use of the network to take advantage of one or more cloud services—such as data storage, security and redundancy—that not only protect a company’s vital data, but enable fast access to it.

The reasons why so many companies are choosing cloud services are numerous. But most are directly or indirectly tied to the one factor that impacts most business decisions: money.

Cloud-readiness is increasingly viewed by many as a growth enabler for their organizations—both from an IT perspective because critical IT staff can shift from systems management functions to business process enhancement; and from an operations standpoint as business functions and workforce can grow quickly and efficiently.

Cloud computing reduces costs in a number of ways:

  • Lower Capital Costs. Companies that build and manage their own data rooms incur sizable upfront costs in purchasing the requisite equipment, along with the expense of ongoing maintenance fees. Those costs are almost eliminated by using the cloud.
  • Lower Utility Costs. Plenty of electricity and air conditioning is required to power and cool server rooms, and those fees can be reduced drastically if all or most IT assets are shifted to the cloud.
  • Real Estate Savings. Businesses can free up office space by moving the location of servers and other equipment typically needed when most IT management occurs on-site to an off-site location instead.
  • Personnel Savings. Whether using public cloud services, private cloud services, or a hybrid cloud solution, businesses require less headcount to monitor and manage the network.
  • Agility. Companies who contract for cloud services only pay for what they need on demand, and can usually, depending on the provider, quickly scale their IT infrastructure needs up or down based on seasonal growth patterns or other marketplace factors.

Cloud-readiness offers direct benefits to facilities managers, as management-specific applications to configure, monitor, and control building systems such as access security and energy management. Computerized maintenance and management applications (CMMS) have also moved to the cloud. These solutions help track repairs and preventive maintenance work orders as well as managing inventory and tracking building assets. There are also cloud based solutions for incident management, space planning, and visitor registration.

One of the biggest benefits of running building management applications in the cloud is anytime access to the application and to the alerts, analyses, and status reports they deliver. Managing buildings from the cloud also allows a facilities management team to manage multiple locations in real time from the central office.

Facility managers who embrace the importance of both high-speed networks and cloud based availability will find they have more time for forward thinking, because they can spend less time staying on top of management and maintenance issues.

 

Source: Today’s Facility Manager

Homeowner-association board members throughout Florida will have more leeway to raise fees and make contracts with new emergency powers granted by the Legislature.

When the governor declares a state of emergency, such as during a hurricane, board members will be able to borrow money and contract for services without a vote of the full board. They also will be able to carry out government evacuation orders. In addition, the state has given them the ability to charge homeowners new fees to repair common areas — such as a clubhouse — without sending notices to owners, scheduling a meeting or getting a quorum of board members.

“Having to have a certain amount of advance notice to call meetings and a quorum of board members and money you can’t touch in reserves and, meanwhile, the building is exposed to the elements … well, it just didn’t make sense,” said South Florida attorney Donna Berger, who worked on the legislation with sponsors Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, and Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale. Berger said the changes, which took effect Tuesday, grew out of the chaos that gripped associations a decade ago when three hurricanes hit the state. She relayed stories of condominium boards that were powerless when residents disobeyed mandatory evacuation orders and threw hurricane parties at the condo pool. The association could have been liable for any injuries, she said. Efforts to amend existing laws only began this year.

The changes give homeowner associations many of the same emergency powers that the state affords condominium associations during emergencies. Board members can designate “assistant officers” who can make business decisions about association assets. Without a vote from homeowners, board members can levy “special assessments,” which are one-time charges to cover emergency-related expenses. In addition, they can borrow money, pledging homeowner-association property as collateral. The one thing condo boards can do that homeowner boards cannot: enter the homes of residents.

Not everyone sees the logic of granting more leeway to the chiefs of Florida’s subdivisions. Jan Bergemann, president of Cyber Citizens for Justice, said the new provisions are unnecessary and dangerous. The group is the state’s largest advocacy group for homeowners. “If all that damage occurs, you don’t need to sign a contract the next day to build a clubhouse,” said Bergemann, who has written to his members objecting to the new measures. “If there is a pipe busted, that’s OK. But you don’t need to sign big contracts.”

During the hurricanes of 2004, he added, local governments and the Federal Emergency Management Agency covered compromised buildings with blue tarps and otherwise protected hurricane-affected properties from further damage. The new regulations allow board members greater latitude to hire contractors without oversight, and that could invite abuses, Bergemann said. Berger emphasized that homeowner-association board members will be limited to using their new powers during state-declared emergencies.

In southwest Orange County, Lake Willis Homeowner Association Board member Jerry Aldrich said he couldn’t foresee his association ever using the new powers granted by the state. During the hurricanes that came through Central Florida a decade ago, he said, Orange County helped collect debris from more than 40 trees that fell or were damaged in high winds. The homeowner board never had to make any contracts. “We’re just a small association,” he said. “I don’t see how it would affect us.”

 

Source: SunSentinel

Primary commercial property insurance is a buyers’ market with rate decreases of up to 20% for many U.S. accounts that renewed at midyear, with the exception being those with high catastrophe exposures.

Limited catastrophe losses and an influx of insurance capacity exerted considerable pressure on prices, brokers and market experts say. “The market is very insurance buyer-friendly right now,” said Duncan Ellis, U.S property practice leader at Marsh USA Inc. “Purchasers of property insurance are finding a very favorable environment toward pricing, toward capacity and toward interest in their risks.”

Premium decreases should be “on an average basis, probably high single digits to low double-digit percentage decreases,” Mr. Ellis said. Some accounts could see rates fall up to 20% “based upon good solid competition in the marketplace.”

“For 2014, we are definitely in a rate decrease environment,” said David Finnis, Atlanta-based national property practice leader at Willis North America Inc. Willis clients saw property rates fall 7.5% to 12% through June 30, he said.

However, catastrophe-exposed accounts will find a somewhat “less friendly” market than those without catastrophe exposure, Mr. Finnis said. “As one would expect, premiums are still higher in high-catastrophe areas like Florida and California vs. noncatastrophe areas like the Midwest,” he said.

Stewart Ellenberg, risk manager for the city of Boulder, Colorado said the city was fortunate to renew with a “slight” rate increase despite a large property insurance claim related to the September 2013 flood in the region. Likewise, Union County, North Carolina renewed its commercial property coverage for a 2% price increase, but deductibles for flooding and earthquake each doubled to $50,000, said Tiffany Allen, the county’s risk manager.

Looking ahead, about the only thing that could turn the market would be a major hurricane or other disaster. “If there are no catastrophe events, we predict that you’re going to be looking at double-digit decreases for the remainder of the year,” said Al Tobin, New York-based managing principal of Aon Risk Solutions’ property practice. “Double-digit decreases will continue,” approaching 20% for some accounts, he said.

“There’s just so much capacity in the property market right now, between incumbent insurers wanting to increase their lines or new underwriters trying to get on to the accounts,” Mr. Finnis said.

Mr. Tobin said, “What’s driving the market as much as anything is increased appetite among the top 10 catastrophe property carriers.”

“The absence of major losses … would be the No. 1 market driver, because that’s starting to attract capital,” Mr. Ellis said. “When looking at the results for 2013 combined with what we have seen in 2014 thus far, property is looking like a solid bet right now and is thus why we are seeing a lot of money or capital flowing into the property space.”

Analysts Agreed

“If you take a step back, it’s how financial markets work,” said Cliff Gallant, an analyst at Nomura Securities International Inc. in San Francisco. “There’s been an area where profits have been pretty good in recent years relatively speaking and so capital is flowing there in different forms.”

“I think where there’s underwriting success, that attracts capital to those lines,” said James Auden, managing director at Fitch Ratings Inc. in Chicago. “So if you have large underwriting gains in a segment, existing players put more capital into those lines.”

Alternative capital flowing into the reinsurance space may reduce reinsurance pricing for primary insurers, but it has not significantly affected primary insurance prices. “Reinsurance is just one ingredient in the makeup of (primary insurance) costs,” Mr. Tobin said.

Also, there is no broad lingering effect from Superstorm Sandy on property pricing this year, Mr. Tobin said. “Insurance companies are more acutely aware of deductibles and limits, but price has not been affected,” he said.

“There is no Sandy hangover on pricing,” Mr. Finnis said. “The only lingering result is that individual insurers are no longer providing $100 million in limits in the areas that were affected.” Those policy limits now vary by account but usually range from $25 million to $50 million.

What’s more, the uncertainty of congressional renewal of the federal terrorism insurance backstop thus far has not caused property pricing movement. The backstop will expire at the end of the year unless Congress renews it. Renewal legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate.

“There has not been any effect on (property) pricing and there is not likely to be because there is more supply,” Mr. Tobin said of the federal terrorism program.

 

Souce: Business Insurance