Keep in mind the two major points:
#1 Insurance is way too complex for anyone other than an experienced insurance professional to fully understand.
#2 Your job as a board member is “governance” not management.
There are many questions you should be asking that have answers we can all grasp. When you hear those answers, digest them amongst yourselves. Use your community manager as a mentor. The management professional admittedly has a bit more experience than you, but is still not a licensed insurance broker. Then you come to a decision that will allow your professional insurance vendor to implement a program that fulfills your fiduciary duty.
Here are a few guidelines, kind of like a cast of characters.
Your insurance agent is really not too much more than a salesperson that should understand the products being sold well enough to explain them to you. Some brokers/agents work for only one company. These are companies like State Farm. Others call themselves “independent”, and represent many insurance companies. There are pros and cons as to whether to work with a dedicated agent or an independent. I’ll let them make their own cases to you. Just know that there is a difference.
Warning: Don’t ask four independent agents to bid your policy. They will all probably go to the same carriers and the same person sitting at the same desk at each one of the insurance companies will be reviewing your policy. For some reason, they don’t like this and some may just refuse to give you a quote because they feel you are spinning their wheels. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get competitive bids. Just make sure you let the competing agents know so they can avoid that kind of frustrating duplication.
The underwriter is the insurance company. Names like Travellers, Prudential, State Farm, Allstate, Chubb, etc. Their purpose in life is to collect your premiums and not payout claims. That’s how they make their money. They are not on your side. Don’t feel badly. It’s just business. The brokers are the ones who should explain what “exclusions” mean. If you need a priority of things to focus on, then put “exclusions” at the top of the list.
The Public Adjusters
The public adjusters are there for you when you have a claim. Regardless of what the brokers may imply, they are not. They are there for their employers, the insurance companies. They will offer you sympathy, empathy, emergency assistance, but very rarely cash. The public adjusters are the professionals who go to war with the insurance companies to get you paid every penny you deserve. They can be very clever.
The Insurance Adjuster
This is the person who decides how much you will be paid as a settlement for your claim. This person’s job is to minimize the insurance company’s payout. They are human beings with heavy workloads. Smaller claims can often be settled on the telephone. If you and the property manager can provide complete documentation for your claim it will be to your benefit. Make it easy for the adjuster to reach a conclusion. As much as they need to put their employer first, they also want to close your file.
The Community Manager
Your manager should help you make sense out of everything and ask the right questions. Managers will frequently have an agent of choice. That’s because some agents are better communicators than others. One of your jobs after you buy your policies is to communicate what you’ve done to the rest of the community, and then work with them during the year when they sell their units or need to buy their own insurance. A broker who is unresponsive to these requests can make things very difficult. Your community manager is not an insurance professional. Please don’t pretend that he or she is. All they can do is help you ask the right questions, and then follow your orders.
As long as you know who is on your team, and what you can expect from them, the rest is up to you. Read the articles we offer. Learn about the many different kinds of coverage and the changing laws in regard to your responsibility. Good luck.