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Tips to Help You Prepare for Budget Season

 

2020 is finally coming to an end, and with the end of a year comes the budget season. For most property managers budget season can feel overwhelming, but with the right preparations, it can become very manageable, and give you a great opportunity to learn more about your association. Here are a few of our best tips for property managers on how to prepare for budget season.


Get Started Early
One of the best tips for budget season is to get started early. That means starting in mid-summer instead of mid-fall. By starting early, you give yourself more time to handle unexpected issues and distractions that may arise with your association. It’s much more manageable to handle a budget crisis when you have 3 months, rather than 3 weeks to prepare for it. You also allow yourself more time to look at the small details of a budget that would otherwise get missed.


Set Clears Goals and Timeline
As the old saying goes, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. A great way to keep from being overwhelmed by budget season is by setting small timelines and goals. Set aside an hour or two a day that is strictly for reviewing the budget and nothing else. You should also prioritize specific tasks in the budget, for example, start tasks that will require multiple parties to be involved first so that it gives time for others to respond. That way you are not rushing to get answers when the deadline is a week away.


Conduct a Maintenance Review & Property Walk
Life is busy, and sometimes you just do not have the time to leave the office. A great place to start budget season is by conducting a detailed property walk. Keep a lookout for any current or upcoming maintenance issues that will need to be accounted for in the new year’s budget. A property walk also gives you a chance to talk with unit owners to see if they have any concerns regarding the association that may otherwise be overlooked.


Review Your Insurance
Insurance is one of the most important expenses in an annual budget, and on top of that, the insurance industry is changing constantly. It is especially important to review your association’s insurance each year with a licensed agent. Make sure your agent is aware of any additions, extra liabilities, or claims that have occurred during the year. Your agent should also be asking you these questions. If your agent does not review the association’s insurance each year, it might be time to consider a new agent. It is also a great idea to discuss changes in insurance trends with your agent to give yourself the most accurate insurance estimate to add to your budget.


We hope these tips help make the 2020 budget season a little more manageable for you. On top of some great tips, we have created a comprehensive document about changes in the 2020 property insurance market. This PDF will be a great starting point when reviewing your association’s insurance budget for next year. Click here to view PDF.

Staying Busy During Quarantine from our Agents

 

        Now that most of us have been quarantining for COVID-19 for at least a few weeks, we have really got the hang of this whole staying busy at home thing. Exchanging gym work outs for at home ones, spending dinner at the dinning room table instead of the restaurants, life has a new normal. Our agents, Robert and Kip, have been making the most of their quarantine. Take a look at some of their suggestions on TV shows, recipes and how to make the most of your time at home. 


What We are Watching 

Robert Mitchell:

“Catching up on Ozark, I’m still on season 1 so no spoilers!”

Kip Kollmeyer: 

Better Call Saul -“This season has been fantastic! I’m sad there’s only a few episodes left of the season.”

“My guilty pleasure is Bravo Reality TV: Real Housewives of NYC, Summer House.”

 

What We are Doing

Robert Mitchell:

“Pretending that I’m going to workout, and then making an excuse not to workout.”

Kip Kollmeyer:

“Yard work, swimming in the pool as often as possible, and finishing touches on the baby’s nursery.”

 

What We are Eating

Robert Mitchell:

“My wife and I love cajun food, so we took a shot at making homemade Jambalaya. Turned out pretty good for our first time. Here’s the recipe I used!”
https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/jambalaya-recipe/

Kip Kollmeyer:

“Pot Roast, Caprese Quinoa Bake – we add ground turkey to this recipe and cook the quinoa with broth – it’s pretty amazing!”
https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a22789171/caprese-quinoa-bake-recipe/


We hope you all enjoyed reading a little bit about how we are spending our time during quarantine and got a few ideas of things to try to keep yourself busy. Share your results on our Facebook if you try one of Robert and Kip’s amazing recipe suggestions!

From all of us here at Mitchell Insurance, please stay safe and healthy.

 

 

Meet the Agents: Robert C. Mitchell

      Mitchell Insurance Services began as a family owned and operated insurance agency in 1971, founded by Robert C. Mitchell. Today, three generations later, Robert C. Mitchell III is now the president and top commercial agent at Mitchell Insurance. Despite growing up in the insurance world, Robert has extensively studied insurance and has achieved the top credentials that an insurance agent can obtain.

      In 2008, Robert began his education at Florida State University where he graduated with a degree in Political Science. After graduating, he joined Bankers Insurance before earning his 2-20 and joining Mitchell Insurance Services as a commercial line’s agent. During this time, Robert discovered his passion for insurance education. He enjoyed being able to educate his clients on insurance, and not just selling them a policy. In 2012, Robert earned his Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) designation, a nationally recognized and highly respected program in insurance business. Then in 2015, Robert earned his Certified Risk Manager (CRM) designation, which is one of the most important designations for risk managers working in insurance. If earning both highly recognized designations wasn’t enough, Robert went back to school at Florida State University and graduated in 2016 with his Master’s in Risk Management Insurance. Robert says that, “Reinvesting my time into continuing education allows me the opportunity to communicate to our clients with the most up to date comprehensive information regarding their insurance policies.”

      Robert’s involvement in the insurance community isn’t just in education. He has been an active member of Florida Association of Insurance Agents, Young Agent Council, Community Association Institute, Building Managers International, and even served as the president of Pinellas Association of Insurance agent for two years. Currently, he still serves as an active Board Member of PAIA. When Robert is not at the office, he can be found enjoying Florida’s beautiful weather on the golf course, or spending time with his daughter whom he and his wife welcomed in December 2019.

      At Mitchell Insurance Services you aren’t just a customer, you are a part of our family. Contact us today to get a FREE risk assessment on your business or condominium/homeowners association.

Cyber Liability for Community Associations

 

In a world that now uses technology in every aspect of business; from accounting, payment processing, and personal data storage there has been a large rise in cybercrime and in turn a need for cyber liability insurance. What is cyber liability? It is a combination of coverage options that include errors of omissions, media liability, network security, and privacy, which are typically excluded from your regular General Liability, Directors & Officers, and Employee Theft/Crime insurance policies. Broken down, these combined help cover your Association by addressing any legal fees and expenses; notifying your members if there is a data breach, recovering compromised data, repairing damaged computer systems and more. According to a recent study by First Date, the average cost of a cyber claim for a medium-sized business is around $86,500, with just the forensic examination ranging from $20,000 to $50.000.

 

When I discuss Cyber Liability Insurance with my clients the first response I get is “Why would they attack us? We’re just a community association.” Most people & small businesses believe they will not be the target of cyber-attacks because they are only familiar with large organizations like Home Depot and Equifax as the targets of these types of attacks. What most people don’t know is that as of 2017 more than half of the small businesses in the U.S. experienced a data breach and 55% experienced a cyber-attack.  This applies to community associations because they are classified as small businesses and the management companies they employ are often small businesses.

 

Why Associations are Targets:

Associations typically collect individuals credit scores, social security numbers, bank account information, tax information, previous residential information, work history when approving a new resident. After they are approved all this information is then stored in either the Association or property managers data management system, which lends itself as an easy target for hackers.  Additional information sought by attackers is listed below.

 

  • Bank Account & Routing Info
  • Credit Card Numbers
  • E-mail addresses
  • Driver’s License Numbers
  • Property Values

 

According to All Property Management, the most common type of attacks against associations is email scams, phishing, viruses, Trojan horses, and botnets. These are types of hacks that come through via spam emails or pop up on your computers.

 

A quick claim example; say a board member or employee of a management company receives an email from what they think is their bank notifying them of any issues with their account. The employee is then concerned and clicks the link that leads to a webpage that says it was just an error there’s no issue, so all concern is gone. What happened during the time they clicked the email was a spyware virus was then transferred to the individual’s computer where a hacker can now take endless screenshots and recordings of everything that happens on that computer including access to passwords and banking information. That hacker can also send e-mails fake invoices to be paid to bank accounts that appear to be vendors.

 

Real World Threats:

  • Board member or manager loses a laptop, or I phone containing bank account numbers or passcodes
  • An Association employee leaves a file containing confidential unit owner information lying open on a desk
  • Fishing e-mails to association members (Claim Example from Above)
  • E-mails accidentally sent to all members containing confidential unit owner info
  • Cyberthief hacks association/mgmt. entity computer system

 

Cyber Liability Insurance:

Everything that we have discussed above would be excluded under most standard Association liability policies. To address the concern of cyber liability Associations can purchase a stand-alone policy or some insurance companies will offer endorsements on their Directors & Officers or Crime policies.

 

Insurance Coverage’s Provided by Cyber Liability Policies:

  • Loss of income reimbursement – When the computer is down and cannot collect association fees which are paid online.
  • Cost to Repair Computer Systems – Actual cost incurred when repairing hardware or software damage by a cyber attack
  • Notification of affected owners, employees, and vendors – This could include the cost of mailings or other means of notification.
  • Member credit monitoring – This policy would pay for a year of credit monitoring companies for all the members affected by a data breach.
  • Crisis management and public relations – This covers the cost of hiring a company to get information about the data breach out to the members and to minimize the damage to the association’s reputation. These experts will work towards restoring confidence in the owners and in the community.
  • Forensic and legal services – This policy will pay for experts to assist in determining if there was a regulatory breach and will help with compliance.
  • Social Engineering- Voluntary parting of funds because of phishing
  • Defense Cost- Cost Associated with any lawsuits brought against the Association because of a data breach

 

Common Sense Risk Management:

  • If the Association offers Wi-Fi in common areas make sure its password secured
  • Implement virus protection on all board member and employee computers
  • Change Passwords every 90 days
  • Collect only the data you need and only store it for as long as necessary
  • Encrypt e-mail communications containing personal or confidential information

 

Cyber threats are only going to increase as technology continues to play a more prominent role in everyday life. Associations should educate themselves on the threats posed to their community and the tools available to combat these threats. Don’t believe it can’t happen to you!

 

-Robert Mitchell, CIC, CRM, MS-RMI

 

 

 

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