“Had your board not found the discrepancies you would be facing 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 coverage.”
— Anthony Rolfes of Fulcrum Claims Consulting
A little more than three weeks after the Memorial Day fire that destroyed seven units, the Grand Bear Lakes Townhome Association learned Wednesday its insurance policy was changed from 80% coverage to full coverage.
Partially because of this change, the destroyed properties are expected to be restored to their purchase condition.
The association board updated this insurance policy at the beginning of 2022.
The association’s insurance broker from Rosenthal Brothers Inc., Greg Rosenthal, attended Wednesday’s association board meeting at Grand Bear Lodge via Zoom and detailed some specifics of the group’s policy.
While making this adjustment, the coverage also detailed, in the event of a disaster, personal property would not be covered as part of the association’s policy.
“The buildings, as were originally constructed by the developers, are covered,” Rosenthal said. “That includes the original fixtures as installed by the developer. Improvements and betterments would be covered under your homeowners policy.
“The personal property piece of this, it was specifically requested after quite a bit of conversation, that because the association itself doesn’t own any personal property, that that is the responsibility to unit owners.”
Wednesday’s meeting featured presentations from various individuals with the intention of answering homeowners’ questions and easing some concern.
Utica Fire Chief Ben Brown spoke to the group initially and detailed the events of the fire and the investigation that ensued immediately after.
“You guys had the perfect mixture,” Brown said. “You had 35 to 40 mph sustained winds. You had dry weather and mulch. All that stuff is like gasoline at that point. You’ve watched the wildfires on TV and it’s the best way to explain it.”
Brown estimated departments utilized between 5 and 7 million gallons of water in order to extinguish the fire. The fire was determined by the state fire inspector to have started from a charcoal grill and was deemed accidental.
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Grand Bear cabin owner Tyler Tomczak speaks to the Board of Grand Bear Lakes Townhome Association and its consultants during a meeting Wednesday, June 22, 2022, at Grand Bear Lodge in Utica. (Scott Anderson)
Some homeowners, including Tyler Tomczak, said because his property was initially purchased with furniture included; the original furniture should be included under the association’s policy.
“We bought these properties with it fully furnished,” Tomczak said. “We didn’t have the option to select whether or not to furnish it. The fact that it was built into the cost of a new construction home, should be covered.”
Tomczak also said he believes the unit owners should have been notified of this change as he believes it would qualify as a substantially modified policy. The association’s council, Joshua Weinstein, said he disagreed.
“I wouldn’t say that taking away the association’s coverage, which is probably actually cross coverage, and I’m sure you as the owner have coverage for the personal coverage, constitutes substantial modification,” Weinstein said.
Aside from the association’s insurance broker, the meeting also had a presentation 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 adjusters to act on behalf of the association and to ensure it receives the largest amount of funds available from the coverage in order to rebuild.
Rolfes praised the change in coverage the board elected to pursue at the beginning of the year.
“Had your board not found the discrepancies you would be facing a doubly catastrophic 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 coverage.”
The claim consultants said they were brought in to work alongside the association through every step 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 that you are entitled to,” Kobel said. “We are here to work with the insurance company and expedite the claim.”
Rolfes added his firm will look to host a consulting event for homeowners affected by the fire once the initial work is in progress in order to give owners a chance to get some of their questions answered.
The group indicated action will begin over the next 60 to 90 days as the public adjusters ensure every item of the claim is confirmed.