COLD CALLS: David White, partner at Butler & Messier in Pawtucket, says claims by the company’s commercial clients have been “surprisingly” low given the weather this winter. He says that could be a function of better management or simply “luck.”
Rhode Island’s relentless, bone-chilling winter left its mark with freezing pipes and other troubles for property owners across the state, say insurers. For many, the combination of an extremely cold winter and still-sluggish economy was particularly challenging.
“In a state that has one of the worst economies in the 50 states, we do [still] see a lot of properties that are vacant, or partially vacant, and under the typical commercial insurance policy in Rhode Island there is a mandatory state form, the Rhode Island Changes form, that says if the owner has a property that’s been vacant for more than 60 days before the loss, they do not have coverage should the pipes burst,” said David White, partner in Butler & Messier Insurance, who oversees commercial lines.
“This is one area where we see the unfortunate happen,” said White. “If the property has been vacant for more than 60 days, the damage is not covered unless the property owner has taken steps to prevent it, whether it’s keeping heat in the building or draining the water from the pipes.”
“But the cold this past winter should be a warning to business owners that if they’re in a situation where they have a vacant building, they need to discuss with their insurance agent the restrictions in coverage that result when you have a vacant building,” he said.
Overall, however, Pawtucket-based Butler & Messier, an independent insurance agency, did not see an unusual number of commercial claims during the winter, said White.
“Surprisingly, it’s been very quiet this year on the commercial side for claims,” said White. “We haven’t had the normal number of slip-and-falls or the car accidents due to icy conditions, which are the typical commercial claims.