With Snow on the way it’s important that you choose your snow professional wisely.
We thank our friends at Seely & Durland Insurance for these tips as you seek out your winter season professional. www.seely-durland.com
**Please note that at Farmside Landscape we only service commercial and homeowner association accounts for Snow Management.
Contractors who engage in snow and ice removal operations for both residential homes and commercial operations (big and small) come from a broad cross section of options. From your next door neighbor with a p/u and a plow, to the smaller landscape contractor working year round, to larger contractors of various trades looking to stay busy in the cold winter months in our region, to major snow and ice removal contractors who devote a specific operation/division/company and will often handle the larger shopping malls/centers, office and condominium complexes etc. Because of the “variety” of choices, it is important for homeowners and business owners alike to select wisely. One of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a contractor to handle your snow and ice removal is the appropriate insurance protection. And over the last couple of years, this has become a bit more difficult for contractors in this region!
Since the downturn in the economy in 2009, there has been a significant spike in the number of lawsuits claiming bodily injury; slip and fall type claims led the way in the northeast and it was contractors handling the snow removal operations who bore the brunt of a large increase in claims. Because of this, the entire insurance market was experiencing a sharp increase in loss ratios in this class of business, many carriers pulled back from writing any snow removal operation at all, and those that remained were dramatically increasing premiums. Some insurance carriers were attaching snow/ice removal exclusions to their General Liability policies! The insurance market in this segment of risk exposure remains very difficult.
Because of this…here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing a snow removal contractor:
- If you’re a residential homeowner, your risk is far less than that of a business or commercial property owner. While it is still recommended to hire a legitimate contractor with the proper insurance in place, we see many instances where a friend or neighbor with a plow does the job. That friend or neighbor could get themselves into trouble if this turns into a business venture (e.g. getting paid for the work); they now need to have Commercial Liability coverage. And if they’re using their p/u truck, insured on a personal automobile policy, more potential problems and possible uncovered claims!
- Small businesses (retail, office, service, churches, not-for-profits – you name it) to strip malls to large shopping centers or condominium/apartment complexes require much more scrutiny on who they hire to handle their snow/ice removal needs:
- Be sure you are hiring a reputable contractor with experience in this area; referrals are wonderful.
- Make certain you request a Certificate of Insurance, prior to the commencement of any work, to ensure they have proper Commercial General Liability (CGL) coverage with adequate limits (e.g. at least $1,000,000/occurrence and $2,000,000/aggregate).
- Depending on the size of the risk/exposure, it would be recommended for the contractor to carry Commercial Umbrella or Excess Liability coverage…at least a $1,000,000 limit, higher limits preferable!
- The certificate should also indicate Commercial Automobile Liability (same minimum limit of $1,000,000) and Worker’s Compensation coverage.
- Request to be named as Additional Insured on the CGL coverage, but please take note…many insurance carriers offer “blanket additional insured”, which is often accompanied by the verbiage “as per written contract”. So it is always prudent to have a written contract in place with the contractor, that stipulates the additional insured wording. Ask them to state in the description of operations that the work is specific to snow/ice removal and that there are no exclusions on the CGL pertaining to these operations.
- Ask them to state in the description of operations that the work is specific to snow/ice removal and that there are no exclusions on the CGL pertaining to these operations.
Of course, if there are ever any questions on this issue or any other insurance related topics, be sure to contact your local Independent Insurance Agent – professionals providing the right answers, choice and flexibility!