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This article forwarded from Andrew Teutsch
Before reading this article, it sure would be awesome if Bed Bugs coverage could be included in Renter Insurance policies. A dream come true for apartment owners.
As Bedbugs Multiply, New Insurance Plans Crop Up
Bedbugs are crawling the sheets in hotels, apartment buildings and college dormitories in surging numbers, which has spawned a new enterprise for insurance companies.
The tiny, reddish bugs, ranging to about 7 millimeters, or the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny, hide in dark places like vampires during the day and suck human blood at night. Unlike those other blood-thirsty parasites, head lice, bedbugs are extremely hard to wipe out once they infest, and the cost can be very high.
Infestations of any kind — bugs, rats or cockroaches —typically are excluded from commercial property insurance policies. The cost of eradicating pests was a maintenance expense, meaning it was not covered by insurance, up until recently.
Insurers, like most of us, didn’t want to get near the bugs.
But increasing pressure from lawmakers to require coverage, along with high demand from hoteliers and property owners to protect themselves from financial loss during an infestation, has created a new market.
Last month, bedbug insurance coverage was offered for the first time by two national brokerage firms, Aon Risk Solutions of Chicago and New York-based Willis North America; and also NSM Insurance Group of Conshohocken, Pa., an insurer.
“You’ve got legislators in the state of New York Assembly who are trying to make this mandatory that insurance companies do this,” said John Lafakis, senior vice president at Willis North America and program manager for the bed bug recovery insurance. “So we figured, ‘You know what, we’re going to beat everyone to the punch.'”
The brokerage firms are leaping into an area that has exploded after years when bedbugs were rarely reported, seemingly a forgotten annoyance from another era.
“Ten years ago it was considered a minor pest issue,” said Greg Gatti, a director at Aon Risk Solutions.
Bedbugs have grabbed headlines as more and more people report the telltale red welts after staying in hotels and living in apartment buildings.
Hotels could spend an average $600 to $800 per room to eradicate bedbugs, according to experts in Connecticut. That says nothing of lost income if an infestation becomes public knowledge — on websites such as bedbugregistry.com, or in the media.
Nutmeg State Plagued
The state office that fields questions from people asking about bedbugs, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, had only two inquiries in 1996. Reports started coming in more regularly in 2003 in all major cities across the state, said Gale E. Ridge, an entomologist who specializes in bedbugs at the experiment station.
Ridge is also chairman of the Connecticut Coalition Against Bed Bugs, which brings together bug researchers, pest control services and other interested parties. She recorded more than 900 reports from people who suspected they had bedbugs in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010, and the numbers are double or triple that for the year that ended June 2011.
The insects are now in every corner of the state. “We have a very active population here,” Ridge said.
Bedbugs aren’t known to spread disease, but they can be an annoyance because of itchy welts from their bites and the loss of sleep they cause, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Connecticut trend mirrors what is happening across the U.S. First, bedbug reports were coming out of larger urban areas. Now, they are more widespread, affecting every town in the state, Ridge said.
Occasionally, a person will mistake Eastern bat bugs (Cimex adjunctus) with bedbugs (Cimex lectularius), which are similar in the way they look and behave. Bat bugs typically signal that bats are living in the eaves or attic.
What’s the difference?
Bedbugs are small, flat parasites, retreating by day to hiding places in bed frames, floorboard cracks and other dark corners.
by MATTHEW STURDEVANT, The Hartford Courant
Could This Be The Start Of A Nationwide Trend?
Are Big Banks Bullying Efforts Paying Off or Is Our Court System Scared Of The Tsunami of Mortgage Fraud Cases Smothering Their Dockets?
Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson had headed up investigations on behalf of the Florida attorney general’s office for more than a year into the fraudulent foreclosure practices that had become rampant in the Sunshine State. They issued subpoenas and conducted scores of interviews, building a litany of cases that documented the most egregious abuses.
That is, until the Friday afternoon in May when they were called into a supervisor’s office and forced to resign abruptly and without explanation.
“It just came out of nowhere,” said Edwards, who had worked in the attorney general’s economic crimes section for more than three years. “We were completely stunned.”
Less than a month before they were forced out, a supervisor cited their work as “instrumental in triggering a nationwide review of such practices.” Now, Edwards is convinced their sudden dismissals will have “a chilling effect” on those probes into the shoddy foreclosure practices that caused national outrage when they made headlines last fall.
Although similar abuses have occurred throughout the country, they have been particularly rampant in Florida, which was ground zero for the housing bust and is home to a collection of large law firms that were hired by the financial industry to relentlessly churn out foreclosures in recent years. That made the investigations headed by Edwards and Clarkson among the earliest and most closely watched by officials across the country.
A spokeswoman for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi declined to comment on what she cited as internal personnel matters but said in an e-mail that the foreclosure investigations remain a top priority.
Before the uproar last fall, Edwards and Clarkson were already investigating the problems plaguing foreclosure filings in the state. Working under then-attorney general Bill McCollum, they created a 98-page presentation entitled “Unfair, Deceptive and Unconscionable Acts in Foreclosure Cases,” which detailed such far-ranging problems as fake and forged affidavits and falsified mortgage ownership records.
Their inquiry led them to focus on “foreclosure mill” law firms that were filing foreclosures for their clients at lightning speed, as well as to the practices of other companies in the mortgage industry. It also led to calls from other attorneys general offices across the country that were beginning to scrutinize similar problems.
“We were farther along in our investigation because we had dug a little deeper than anybody else,” Edwards said. “We kept opening up more and more investigations, more and more cases.”
Their work won them accolades. In the evaluation provided by Edwards, a supervisor wrote that the pair had “achieved what is believed to be the first settlement in the United States relating to law firm foreclosure mills” — a multimillion-dollar settlement a month earlier with a Fort Lauderdale firm.
Despite that praise, Edwards and Clarkson said in separate interviews that they sensed a change when Bondi took office in January. Almost immediately, they said, supervisors began to question their findings and demand details about how they were gathering information.
Both women say they were summoned into a meeting on the afternoon of May 20 and told they could either resign or be fired. Either way, they would no longer be employed come 5 p.m. They had to come back over the weekend to pick up their things, they said.
“No two weeks’ notice, no severance, no nothing,” Clarkson said. “I have no idea why it happened.”
Added Edwards, “We didn’t even have a chance to go over our cases with anybody. We were just locked out.”
A spokeswoman for Bondi, Jennifer Krell Davis, said the economic crimes division “continues to actively pursue the investigations into foreclosure law firms.” She said the division’s director, Richard Lawson, is leading the inquiry into one of the state’s largest foreclosure firms and is supervising other cases.
“The division has made these investigations a top priority and will continue to actively pursue all of our investigations into foreclosure law firms,” Davis said in an e-mail, adding that Lawson had assigned 14 attorneys and investigators to work on the cases that belonged to Edwards and Clarkson.
As for their hasty departure, she wrote, “We do not comment on personnel matters. However, the Florida Attorney General’s Office is always striving to make sure that we have the best staff working to serve and protect the people of Florida.”
Edwards and Clarkson, whose dismissals were first detailed this week by The Palm Beach Post, have since opened a private law firm together in South Florida focused largely on foreclosure defense. They expressed doubts about how aggressively the cases they left behind will be pursued, saying the other attorneys in their division are dedicated and hardworking but that each already had a full caseload.
For her part, Clarkson said she worries about the work left undone, the potential misdeeds left undiscovered, even as state and federal officials negotiate a settlement with banks to end some of the worst practices.
“There is so much paperwork that came in due to our subpoenas that I didn’t even get a chance to look at,” she said, adding, “I looked at enough to know that there’s a lot more problems out there.”
By Brady Dennis, Published: July 14
from Washington Post Business
Forwarded by Gold Member Roger Taylor
HUD has implemented a program that allows unemployed borrowers to remain in their homes for an extended period of time without having to make a mortgage payment.
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Commencing in August, the FHA will make changes to its Special Forbearance Program. Loan servicers will be required to Click Here for Full Video/Article (Members Only)
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