In celebration of its 50th anniversary, Ghertner & Company is “Giving Back” to organizations in our middle Tennessee community that are making a difference. The Tennessee Children’s Home in Spring Hill, TN is one of four locations across the state that provides for physical, social, emotional, spiritual and educational needs of children and youth in a safe and secure environment. The children live in on-site homes with other children and with House Parents. The residential care is structured to help the children be successful, with an on-site school, tutoring services, church attendance, counseling services, and substance abuse counseling. Learn more at www.tennesseechildrenshome.org.
In a time when layoffs and foreclosures are widespread, your firm may be forced to manage vacant real estate. The insurance risks and liabilities associated with owning vacant property can be extensive, and to ensure you are adequately protected, it is important to know these risks. In addition to purchasing comprehensive insurance coverage, there are numerous preventive strategies for maintaining vacant properties to reduce risk and liability.
There are a host of risks and concerns associated with owning vacant property. Vacant buildings are an obvious target for theft, trespassing and vandalism. For example, the rising cost of copper has given rise to an increase in the theft of copper pipes from vacant properties. In addition to any loss or property damage that may occur, keep in mind that the owner of a property can be held liable for criminal activities or accidents that take place on the premises.
In addition, vacant properties are susceptible to undetected damages, such as fire, water damage, electrical explosions, wind or hail damage, and mold. A study by the U.S. Fire Administration shows that approximately 30,000 fires occur every year in vacant buildings, costing $900 million annually in direct property damage. Many of these incidents occur in vacant buildings due to small, undetected maintenance issues; someone in an occupied building would have recognized and handled the problem before it caused a larger loss.
In certain facilities, there may also be environmental hazards that the owner needs to consider. Facilities that are used to store chemicals or other pollutants should ensure that such materials are removed or securely stored—the owner may be held liable for any hazardous materials that contaminate groundwater or other nearby natural resources. Also, underground fuel tanks present serious challenges and thus should be frequently and carefully inspected by professionals.
Other Ways to Mitigate Risk
In addition to extending coverage, there are some simple steps that owners of vacant property can take to limit their risk and liability.
- Prevent vandalism: Notify local authorities of vacated properties so they can watch for criminal behavior. Maintain an “occupied” appearance to the property— mow the lawn, have mail forwarded or picked up regularly and install light timers and/or a security system.
- Limit liability: Make sure the property is free from significant hazards (e.g., broken railings or steps, broken windows) that could cause injuries to anyone on the property—this could include police officers, maintenance workers, firefighters or even trespassers.
- Avoid damage: Performing regular maintenance on the property can decrease the odds of sustaining damage. Make sure the heating system and chimney are cleaned and inspected regularly. Have the plumbing system winterized to prevent frozen pipes. Periodically inspect roof, insulation, attic, basement, gutters and other areas of the property for any necessary repairs, mold, damage or other problems. Consider installing smoke detectors that are tied to a centrally monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will be notified in the case of an alarm. Remove all access material and combustibles from in and around the building.
Insuring Residential Properties
Most insurance companies include a clause that the homeowner’s insurance will expire if a home is left vacant for more than 30 or 60 days. This leaves the property owner financially vulnerable for all previously noted risk. However, many insurance companies do offer
vacant property insurance, also known as vacant building insurance or vacant dwelling insurance.
Unoccupied Commercial Building Insurance
Vacant commercial buildings are more difficult to insure
because they present greater risks, including increased chance of theft, malicious damage and burst pipes. It is important to disclose all relevant facts when seeking insurance, including the reason for the property’s vacancy and a schedule of any work to be done on the property.
Because of the increased risks and liability associated with a vacant property, these types of insurance tend to be costly—ranging from one and a half to five times the cost of a property insurance policy. It is important to look beyond the price and consider the suitability and
comprehensiveness of the coverage being purchased.
Partner Post Contributor: Robins Insurance Agency, Inc , Nashville, TN
As part of Ghertner & Company’s ongoing industry training, Roger Perry, CPA, spoke to our managers about taxation for community associations, and the differences between audits and reviews. Mr. Perry’s recent discussion included details on the tax filing options for associations. He also explained the importance of knowing when to check with a CPA when an association anticipates unusual “non-fee income”, such as compensation for cell tower easements on common property, which could impose a tax liability. This was timely for the Community Association Managers, as we enter the tax season.
Our Kids, is a nonprofit organization based in Nashville, whose mission is to provide expert medical evaluations and crisis counseling services in response to concerns of child sexual abuse, to increase community awareness, and to conduct research and offer education and training about child sexual abuse.
Company team members donated $650 to assist this program in its effort to assist children in need in middle Tennessee. Ghertner & Company also matched the donation to give greater impact to the cause.
Learn more about the organization and its programs at www.ourkidscenter.com.
The 2nd Annual Turkey Wobble 5K is part of the company's health initiative and this year's event had over 35 walkers, joggers and volunteers. Held on the MetroCenter Greenway on November 17th, participants not only enjoyed a beautiful Fall workout they earned wellness points and well deserved paid time off with Ghertner & Company.
Team Members for Ghertner & Company participated in a two-week food drive to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee during the month of November. Associates from all departments were able to collect and donate over 180 pounds of food to those in need during the holidays.
Second Harvest Food Bank exists to feed hungry people and solve hunger issues acting as a central distribution center in the Middle Tennessee community.
Many Homeowner Association board members participated in the recent Lunch & Learn seminar that focused on preparing, implementing and communicating about the HOA budget. This relevant topic included analyzing the manager’s draft budget, the benefits of owner involvement in the process and the best ways to share with association members.
Ghertner and Company offers monthly leadership workshops as a complimentary service to their HOA clients. A wide variety of topics are presented by industry professionals along with lunch. Contact Theresa.Savich@ghertner.com to learn more about these seminars.
Team members took a few hours out of our busy schedule and had a pot luck lunch to enjoy the total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st. Eclipse glasses were provided to make the experience safe and fun. Steve Ghertner participated in an amateur radio citizen science experiment to monitor the effects of the eclipse on radio communication. Residents of Twelve Twelve condominiums enjoyed the event on their rooftop, overlooking Nashville.
The residents of Americana Apartments were treated to complimentary ice cream sandwiches on August 2 celebrating National Ice Cream Sandwich Day! Roy Nunley, property manager, stated that the residents enjoyed sharing this fun event and that it gives a sense of appreciation.
Located in the heart of the educational, medical and musical centers of Nashville, Tennessee, residents enjoy the convenient location and urban lifestyle that Americana Apartments has to offer.
The Ridgeport homeowners association held a Movie Night on June 10th with the showing of Finding Dory. Additional entertainment was provided with two mermaids, Arial and Arista, leading the kids in singing and dancing. There was also face painting and a balloon artist. Refreshments were hot dogs, chips and Kona ice. To encourage attendance, raffle prizes included Barbie dolls, trucks, Star Wars toys, mermaid kitchen towels and pot holders and a large wood carved owl. The board of directors and volunteers worked diligently to provide a memorable evening for the community members. Jaye Kloss is the community association manager.
The Valley View homeowners association in Murfreesboro held a patriotic parade to celebrate July 4th. Participants of all ages enjoyed participating in the parade by walking or riding. The event included a well-attended community social, complete with fire trucks, refreshments and the crowning of Miss Valley View. This successful celebration of America’s independence was made possible by the board of directors and volunteers. Bob Welborn is the community association manager.
Country music legend, Eddy Arnold, purchased land in south Nashville many years ago in the rolling hills on Granny White Pike as a retreat from his busy touring schedule. On these wooded acres, The VOCÈ (Italian for voice) community is being carefully developed to reflect Mr. Arnold’s love for the beauty of the area. Emphasizing minimal impact and promoting sustainability Mr. Arnold’s grandson, Shannon Pollard, acts as developer of this unique community.
Scott Ghertner, Angela Stone and Danielle Hayes recently attended an outdoor social promoting the beauty of the setting for this neighborhood. Angela Stone is the community association manager.
Investing in the professional development of Community Association Managers is a top priority at Ghertner & Company. The weekly Friday morning managers meeting provides an opportunity to learn from industry professionals, associates and/or vendors. Pictured here is Nazih Mousharrifeia, owner of Absolute Pest Control, who shared about the different issues and solutions related to termite detection and elimination at their communities.