The insurance claims industry has coined a new word and definition. A white paper by CapeAnalytics, How to Automate Hail Claims Processing With 96% Accuracy, noted the following regarding “neghboritis:”
Another problem leading to more frequent and larger claims is ‘neighboritis,’ which begins when someone in a neighborhood gets a new roof through an insurance claim. Now their neighbors want a new roof too, triggering more claims. This phenomenon is driven by roofing contractors’ door-to-door sales tactics and human buyer psychology. Four claimant personas create four phases of activity that are seen after any storm:
1. ‘Doers’ file a claim immediately and sign up with one of the first roofing contractors to appear.
2. ‘Watchers’ watch for someone else to replace a roof before filing a claim.
3. ‘Waiters’ wait for multiple neighbors to replace a roof and get referrals for contractors.
4. ‘Too-laters’ have damage that remains unreported and unrepaired until it’s too late. This then becomes pre-existing hail damage at the point of underwriting. Accelerating phases 1 and 2 with efficient claims processing and ‘friendly’ approved contractors can reduce the success of unscrupulous actors later in phase 3.
I can appreciate that people living in close proximity may suffer similar hail damage. Still, I had not formally heard of this term. Indeed, I have not seen any empirical data to suggest that this is an accurate portrayal of policyholders rather than a projection by those involved in a sales pitch to an insurance company claims department.
Olympus Insurance Company further defined “neighboritis:”
Neighboritis – When a Neighbor Gets a New Roof after a Major Storm
It’s hard to step out your front door and not notice what is going on around you – specifically, what is going on with your neighbors. Things like a new basketball hoop, a snazzy vehicle sitting in their driveway, or even an addition to their home can make it difficult to not feel a sense of envy. It’s human nature to want to be ‘on par’ with our neighbors and peers. This sense of envy has resulted in a very specific condition which spreads through a community like a disease. It’s called Neighboritis, and today we are going to talk specifically about ‘Roof Envy’.
What is Neighboritis?
Neighboritis is a term used to describe how you feel when you see a neighbor getting a new roof after a major storm like a tropical storm or hail storm. You see your fellow neighbor(s) getting a new roof, and assume your roof has to be damaged as well. You are now convinced that you need a replacement. You are not alone in this scenario. Once there is a rumor of roofs being replaced in your neighborhood, everyone catches the ‘Neigboritits Disease’ and calls to have their roof inspected and replaced.
Shady contractors can be promoters of the neighboritis disease. There are plenty of stories of sales people going door-to-door as they inform homeowners of the ‘damage’ on their roof.
How It Happens
According to ‘The Independent Insurance Claims Adjuster’, neighboritis can happen in the following stages:
- A roofing sales person claims to be a hail expert and finds a neighborhood that was never really exposed to hail damage, or was exposed to hail that did not caused damages. The salesperson knocks on a door and claims to be a roofing expert, explaining to the homeowner / insured that they were exposed to hail and that they have damages on their roof. The roofing sales person then offers the homeowner a new roof at NO COST, but only if he can inspect their roof right away and usually before the insurer is even notified of any potential claim.
- The roofing sales person then works to smooth out any skepticism the property owner has by explaining the various values of a new roof in relation to property value. Homeowners catch on to the concept that they could end up with a new roof at no cost and it takes little convincing that hail may have fallen and damaged their roof when they weren’t aware.
- The salesman convinces the homeowner that they need to conduct a brief roof inspection to see the hail damages.
- The salesman pushes the homeowner to sign a ‘contingency agreement’, although usually unenforceable by law.
- The roofing sales person gives the property owner incentives to ‘spread the word’ (neighboritis) by offering $500.00, $1,000.00 and larger referrals if neighbors sign on for their roof at no cost.
- In the worst case scenario, the roofing salesman tells a story of his or her working with neighbor John Doe on his roof for hail related damages; all of which are a result of only having a contingency agreement.
- One or two inexperienced property insurers pay for roof replacement when it was completely not necessary or by having mistaken mechanical damages for those caused by hail, thereby initiating one roofing salesman to claim that other roofs were replaced because of hail damage. In extreme circumstances, a roofing company may have been hired outside of an insurance settlement to replace an aged roof and the same company comes back several months later, after hail occurred in a remote area, advertising that a nearby neighbor had their roof replaced (not indicating why) and thereby starting a frenzy in the area.
Too Good To Be True
It’s hard to turn down a salesperson’s offer to check out your roof free of charge. If your neighbor had damage and is getting a new roof, why shouldn’t you? Right? When the salesperson does the inspection there is always a report of damage. And why not! Hail does happen and damage does occur.
Olympus says that policyholders get a “disease” when they learn that some of their neighbors suffer hail damage, and their insurance company pays for the damage from the roof. It even suggests that insurance companies paying their policyholders are “inexperienced” rather than acting in “good faith.” People selling and buying Olympus insurance contracts should truly contemplate how this company’s claims management views the people it contracts with.
In another paper, Hail Damage Myths, the author, Doug Brown, also called it a disease:
MYTH NO. 2:
The neighbor’s roof is damaged… so is mine It’s a story often heard by adjusters and investigating engineers alike. Homeowners see their fellow neighbors getting new roofs and assume their roof must also be damaged and will need replacement. We call this neighboritis. It spreads much like a disease. Once there is a rumor in the neighborhood of roofs being replaced, everyone catches the bug and calls their insurance company to have their roof inspected. Contractors can often be carriers of the neighboritis disease, passing it from door-to-door as they inform homeowners of the ‘damage’ on their roof. We expect hail of similar size and density to strike homes in close proximity to one another. However, as insurance professionals and investigating engineers, we cannot base our findings on what was supposedly found on another property.
I wonder what the named disease is when insurance companies, their property insurance adjusters, and hail experts treat policyholders improperly with delayed, underpaid, and denied hail damage claims?
These articles and methods of claims instruction invite otherwise obvious claims of hail damage to be viewed differently. The mindset change will lead to more valid claims being denied and underpaid.
Thought For The Day
It’s good to remember that in crises, natural crises, human beings forget for awhile their ignorances, their biases, their prejudices. For a little while, neighbors help neighbors and strangers help strangers.