Keeping Property-Level Inspection Records Backed Up to the Cloud Can Get You A Fair Payout in the Aftermath of a Major Storm…
Hurricanes are the most violent storms on Earth. Also known as tropical cyclones, these explosive storms have produced more damage than any other billion-dollar weather events in the US from 1980 to 2017, with $566 billion in total losses (averaging $16.2 billion per hurricane). Further, hurricanes and the flooding that accompanies them represent the most frequent billion-dollar disasters with an astounding 47.3% of total weather and climate-related devastation attributable to hurricanes. Between droughts, heatwaves, freezes, other severe storms, wildfire, winter storms and flooding, hurricanes have killed the most people, resulting in 3,210 deaths and displacing millions.
For Multifamily Owners and Managers and the burgeoning Student Housing Operators in the tropical storm-prone Southeastern US, the hurricane threat grows more prevalent each year thanks to both climate change and population increases (39 percent of Americans live in coastal regions and counting). You might think inland communities are safe from damage, but these massive storms often make significant inroads hundreds of miles into land-locked states and can push as far north as Massachusetts and Connecticut, leaving costly damage in their wake. The impact of high winds, massive amounts of rain and lightning on buildings and property can run the gamut: damaged or collapsed roofs, flooded buildings, damage to and loss of trees and landscaping, power outages and downed wires, foundation and structural damage from mud or landslides and pavement washouts.
Insurance problems compound the stress, confusion and costliness for property owners and managers. Frustrating delays on the insurer’s end plus confusing and incorrect information about your coverage, rotating adjusters, unfair “lowball” repair estimates and settlement offers — all while you’re being pressured to file your claim before you’ve had enough time to accurately tally your losses — result in what has been described as the “second nightmare” of severe weather disasters.
“Frustrating delays on the insurer’s end plus confusing and incorrect information about your coverage, rotating adjusters, unfair “lowball” repair estimates and settlement offers — all while you’re being pressured to file your claim before you’ve had enough time to accurately tally your losses — result in what has been described as the “second nightmare” of severe weather disasters.”
Being treated badly by the company you’ve trusted for many years adds (expensive) insult to injury. And if your invaluable inspection documentation is destroyed in the howling storm because it had been stored, defenseless, in filing cabinets or on local computer systems rather than in the cloud; the resulting, inadequate fulfillment of your claim(s) could irreversibly lose you a lot of money, to put it mildly. You need rock-solid property-level records that have been backed up to the cloud with corresponding, organized photos so you can ensure you receive the fair funds you, your organization and your residents deserve.
The scenario above paints the urgency of starting your hurricane and weather emergency preparedness right away. A crisis is the wrong time to engage with an insurance remediation company or a public adjustor. Begin now, before hurricane season gets underway. FirstService Residential advises you to make arrangements with your insurance remediation company to help with securing the property post-storm. In the post-hurricane confusion it won’t be as easy to determine the best course of action. Also be sure to establish a relationship with a “reputable, qualified and national” public adjustor pre-season to save yourself from headaches and financial losses later.
“You need your documentation backed up in the cloud and instantly accessible from anywhere so you can move forward with insurance claims without delay.”
As far as maintenance, if a storm is already on its way, it’s too late. Wise property managers will take the time now to ensure their properties are prepared and that they are ready to respond immediately to a weather emergency. If you have generators, ensure they are serviced and their fuel source is replenished. Get trees trimmed and clean up debris before hurricane season. Replace gravel with mulch. Tour your properties and make sure roofs are in good condition, drains and building gutters are clean, secure and working, and that grounds are free of items that could become projectiles in violent winds or drainage cloggers in floods.
During your property tours, capture the “before” shot. Take pictures using a mobile inspection platform to document your communities, including exteriors, common areas and amenities, prior to any storm disruption. Timestamped photo documentation is the strongest support you can lend to your claim for your insurance company to provide the funds necessary to cover the cost of returning your properties to a pre-hurricane state. Managing chaos in a serious storm situation is not easy. To avert an insurance disaster, you absolutely must ensure regular monitoring of your assets and rock-solid documentation using a mobile inspection tool. That way, in the event of an emergency, you’re able to instantly provide a visual record of your assets, pre-storm.
Another good practice is to let residents know you’re taking precautions against threatening weather, and ask them to do whatever they can to stay safe too. For instance, post information for residents on how to shut off electrical, gas and water mains. They’ll feel more secure in their homes and more confident about your service. Training staff to successfully execute their emergency roles, or even going one step further and having them complete first responder certification should also be part of your plan.
“Paper inspections, assuming they survive the weather, often return illegible handwriting and inconsistent information, making identifying hurricane hazards almost impossible. This lack of consistency and visibility make loss of life, limb and property more difficult to prevent and insurance claims much more difficult to support.”
Pen-and-paper inspection processes can present some obvious problems when your communities are threatened by a yearly hurricane season — namely, once paper files get wet, good luck recovering your critical data and the insurance money you were counting on. Electronic systems that aren’t cloud-based don’t offer any better protection in this regard. You need your documentation backed up in the cloud and instantly accessible from anywhere so you can move forward with insurance claims without delay.
Conventional pen-and-paper and excel-based inspections also don’t provide management with visibility into onsite operations, making it far more likely important weather emergency inspections aren’t completed consistently by property staff; and paper inspections, assuming they survive the weather, often return illegible handwriting and inconsistent information, making identifying hurricane hazards almost impossible. This lack of consistency and visibility make loss of life, limb and property more difficult to prevent and insurance claims much more difficult to support.
Disaster Type | Ave. Cost in Billions of Dollars
Hurricanes | $16.2
Drought | $9.4
Flooding | $4.2
Freezes | $3.3
Winter Storms | $3.0
Wildfires | $2.5
Severe Storms | $2.2
Because most inspection systems lack real-time property-level monitoring, there’s a greater likelihood your onsite teams will skip or fail to fill out data on the very inspections most imperative to your hurricane safety efforts. Moving from a paper-based process to a mobile inspection solution has dramatically improved inspection compliance for our customers, like Yellowstone Club who saw a 46% increase in compliance. Before they began employing a mobile inspection system, they weren’t able to see which of their properties hadn’t completed mandatory inspections. The visibility created by their new workflow has improved accountability organization-wide.
A mobile inspection solution can also automatically time-stamp inspection photos and organize them in reports that are forever backed up to the cloud, searchable and immediately accessible so you have documentation right when you need it. You’ll want to pair your mobile inspections with an online management console offering insights into your data that give you the visibility and tools to intervene based on set thresholds for compliance — impossible to replicate with a paper-based workflow.
Today, the world of property management is a changed place. Keeping your mobile property-level inspection records and timestamped photos backed up to the cloud can get you a fair payout in the aftermath of a major storm.
Ensure you receive a fair insurance payout after the storm.
To learn more about how mobile inspections and data insights backed up to the cloud with HappyCo help you inspect and monitor quality, emergency preparedness and damages across your portfolio, request a demo