The Limits and Gaps in a Business Owner's Policy
One option available to small businesses seeking an all-encompassing policy that packages property and liability coverage into one is the business owner's policy also known as the BOP.
These policies are designed to simplify risk management for small to mid-sized businesses and are generally a good bet for providing the greatest amount of coverage and the least amount of work. Over the years since they were first introduced in 1976, BOPs have evolved by including coverage extensions depending on the needs and nature of the policyholder's business.
Despite this evolution, however, and the general assumption that BOPs provide truly comprehensive coverage, there are some gaps that could catch you by surprise. There are ways to mitigate some of these gaps by purchasing additional insurance, but if you are aware of a BOP's limitations at least you won't be caught off-guard.
Typical BOP coverage
This article focuses on the typical Insurance Services Office BOP form, and some carriers have created their own with different coverages and limits. First, let's look at what the typical BOP covers:
- Property insurance (covering buildings, equipment and inventory).
- Business interruption insurance (covering losses that cause you to shut operations or reduce production for a time). Business interruption insurance can provide funds to offset lost profits or to pay continuing expenses (typically for up to a year for insured losses).
- Casualty or liability protection (covering harm done by employees or products to other people or their property).
- Crime insurance (covering loss of money or securities resulting from burglaries or robberies or destruction), as well as losses from employee theft or embezzlement.
- Liability insurance covering lawsuits arising from accidents (as when someone trips and falls on your business's property), or when you sell a product that damages the customer's property or you are accused of offenses such as slander, copyright or invasion of privacy.
- Vehicle coverage for rented or borrowed vehicles.
The main BOP gaps
Business income protection in a BOP is reasonably extensive for loss of income after an event such as a fire, as the policyholder is fully covered for the period it is closed during restoration, for up to 12 months. However, there are five main gaps in a BOP:
Payroll protection A BOP policy will only cover payroll of "ordinary" employees for 60 days, unlike a standard business income policy. Ordinary employees are all of your staff excluding officers, executives, department managers and contract employees, among others.
If you want to extend payroll coverage for your ordinary employees beyond that, you have to purchase an endorsement for the additional period you want. Payroll for non-ordinary employees, as listed above, is covered for the entire period of your business's restoration up to the 12-month maximum.
Restoration period The period of restoration, during which the policy will cover your business income, is limited to 12 months, and that time can pass quickly when you consider everything that may need to be done to return your firm to "operational capability." It's at that point that business income loss coverage ceases.
Consider that if your business burns to the ground, you will need to draw up new building plans, obtain building permits and make sure your new building is up to code. You also have to factor in the time it will take to rebuild the structure. If all of this takes longer than 12 months, business income loss coverage ceases. The policy will not extend protection beyond this period.
By the way, "operational capability" for the purposes of business income means that the company is operating at or near pre-loss production or sales capacity. It does not mean bringing the business income back to pre-loss levels.
Extended business income The BOP will pay for lost income for an additional 30 days after the firm has reopened for business. In many cases, this amount of time will not be enough to bring your business income back to the same level as before the incident. You can purchase a policy extension for this coverage.
Seasonal increase limitations One of the benefits of a BOP is that it will cover loss of business income in periods of seasonal increases. The standard increase limit is 25% for business personal property. The typical limit most small business purchase is $100,000, but that does not automatically mean that the policy will cover up to $125,000 during the business's peak months.
That's because BOPs state that the business personal property limit must equal 100% of the average monthly values on hand for the 12 months preceding the loss. In other words, it takes into account the seasonal increases from the year before.
Here's an example of how the seasonal increase limit may yield the claims payment short of expectations: Randy's Raft Rental, which carries $100,000 in coverage, experiences an uptick in business in June, July and August. While it enjoys revenues of $100,000 a month in the nine other months, during the peak period revenue jumps to $125,000 per month.
To qualify for receiving the seasonal increase to ensure it is covered for the full $125,000 during the peak season, policy limits would have to be increased to $106,250 (the sum of 9 months x $100,000 + 3 months x $125,000, divided by 12). If you are confused, we can explain.
Electrical damage/system breakdown
Typical BOP policies specifically exclude losses caused by systems breakdowns, or damage from electrical or steam boiler problems. If you want this coverage, you can pick up the "Equipment Breakdown Protection Coverage" endorsement.
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