“If your board of directors had not found the discrepancies, you would be faced with a doubly catastrophic situation. It would have been a bigger loss. Now you have a chance to rebuild and you wouldn’t have had that opportunity with the other cover.
— Anthony Rolfes of Fulcrum Claims Consulting
Just over three weeks after the Memorial Day fire that destroyed seven homes, the Grand Bear Lakes Townhome Association learned Wednesday that its insurance policy had been upgraded from 80% coverage to full coverage.
Partly because of this change, destroyed properties should be returned to their purchased condition.
The Board of Directors updated this insurance policy in early 2022.
Rosenthal Brothers Inc. association insurance broker Greg Rosenthal attended the association’s board meeting Wednesday at Grand Bear Lodge via Zoom and detailed some details of the group’s policy.
During this adjustment, coverage also clarified that in the event of a claim, personal property would not be covered under the association’s policy.
“The buildings, as originally constructed by the developers, are covered,” Rosenthal said. “This includes the original fixtures as installed by the developer. Upgrades and upgrades would be covered by your home insurance policy.
“The personal property part of this, it was specifically asked after quite a bit of conversation, that because the association itself doesn’t own any personal property, it’s the responsibility of unit owners.”
Wednesday’s meeting included presentations from a variety of people in an effort to answer owners’ questions and allay some concerns.
Utica Fire Chief Ben Brown spoke to the group first and detailed the events of the fire and the investigation that immediately followed.
“You had the perfect mix,” Brown said. “You had sustained winds of 35 to 40 mph. You had dry weather and mulch. It’s all like gasoline right now. You watched wildfires on TV and this is the best way to explain it.
Brown estimated that departments used between 5 and 7 million gallons of water to put out the fire. The state fire inspector determined that the fire started from a charcoal grill and was ruled accidental.
Some owners, including Tyler Tomczak, have said his property was originally purchased with furniture included; the original furniture must be included in the policy of the association.
“We bought these properties fully furnished,” Tomczak said. “We didn’t have the option of choosing whether to furnish it or not. The fact that it was rolled into the cost of a new home construction should be covered.
Tomczak also said he thinks unit owners should have been made aware of this change because he believes it would be considered a significantly changed policy. Association counsel Joshua Weinstein said he disagreed.
“I wouldn’t say removing association coverage, which is probably actually cross coverage, and I’m sure you as the owner have coverage for personal coverage, is a substantial change” , Weinstein said.
In addition to the association’s insurance broker, the meeting also included presentations from Anthony Rolfes of Fulcrum Claims Consulting and Brandon Lewis and Craig Kobel of Strategic Claims Consulting.
These consultants have been hired by the association as public experts to act on behalf of the association and ensure that it receives the greatest amount of funds available from coverage in order to rebuild.
Rolfes welcomed the change in coverage that the board chose to pursue at the start of the year.
“If your board hadn’t found the discrepancies, you would be facing a doubly dire situation,” Rolfes said. “It would have been a bigger loss. Now you have a chance to rebuild and you wouldn’t have had that opportunity with the other cover.
Claims consultants said they had been brought in to work alongside the association at every stage of the rebuild while working line by line on the insurance claim.
“We’re here to add a piece to the puzzle and to help you with the insurance company to get everything you’re entitled to,” Kobel said. “We are here to work with the insurance company and expedite the claim.”
Rolfes added that his company will look to organize an advisory event for homeowners affected by the fire once initial work is underway to give homeowners a chance to get some of their questions answered.
The group said the action will begin over the next 60 to 90 days as public experts ensure every element of the claim is confirmed.