Former judge tells Massena board that local governments should be required as beneficiaries on private homeowner insurance policies
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
MASSENA — It may be time to change homeowner insurance policies to include municipalities as a third party beneficiary in the event a structure is severely damaged, this according to one Massena man.
Eugene Nicandri, a former judge, said he thinks it may be time for the state Insurance Department to begin requiring municipalities be included on property damage policies to ensure the cost of removal or repair does not fall to the municipality and, in turn, the taxpayers of those towns and villages.A property located at 23 1/2 East Orvis Street is prompting the idea after village trustees voted unanimously to remove the structure earlier this week during a special board meeting. That property, owned by Timothy Alguire, was destroyed in a blaze on March 21, 2022 and had not been addressed as of the special meeting.
Code Enforcement Officer Aaron Hardy cited over a dozen violations of village code, including gaping holes in the structure, no egress options, extensive smoke, water and fire damage, animals living in the building and various other violations as cause to remove the dilapidated structure.
Nicandri addressed the board, Hardy and Village Attorney Matthew McArdle during a public comment period, saying it was not quite on point for the meeting but still maintained relevance for future considerations when such cases may arise.
“Communities across the state and nation face the same problem of removal and disposal,” he said.
Nicandri noted that through annual premiums, in most cases property owners have some form of insurance to protect them in the event of damage.
Nicandri floated the idea of lawmakers banding together through the New York Conference of Mayors, associations of towns, cities and counties to create a proposal for the state legislature to consider that would create a clear cut process to remove blighted properties that were damaged and left vacant.
As part of his idea, Nicandri said every new property damage policy would include provisions “making every host community a third party beneficiary of such policy to provide a benefit above $50,000 or the actual cost of removal/restoration of a damaged structure,” which would be payable to the municipality or a designated private contractor to remove those structures.
If that were to happen, Nicandri said it would stop property owners from pocketing insurance payouts and “leaving the municipality holding the bag.”
Records would also need to be kept by code enforcement and written notice would be sent from the state to municipalities annually to detail the coverage available at each address.
“The municipality could remove or dispose of such damaged structures or contract it out to a private entity. The insurance company would administer the fund,” he said.
In the event that the process was initiated, Nicandri said the property owner would have 90 days to rectify the situation after the property was released by the fire department.
“I don’t know if current policies contain any such provisions. But, if they do, nobody knows about it and it certainly isn’t advertised by the insurance companies,” he said.