Steve Meyer Discusses Hurricane Sandy Impact and Lessons Learned from Katrina

In its Spring 2013 edition, USFN Report published an article authored by Steve Meyer, Safeguard’s assistant vice president of high risk and hazard claims, titled Hurricane Sandy Impact Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Sandy Impact Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina
By Steve Meyer

When Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast Coast in October 2012, the mortgage servicing industry felt a sense of déjà vu. Less than eight years before Sandy, the U.S. was starting to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina, arguably one of the most devastating natural disasters in the country’s recent history. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina left $81 billion in damage, 1.2 million evacuees, and 1,833 storm-related deaths according to The Weather Channel. Early estimates show that Sandy caused 147 deaths and $50 billion in damage to 650,000 properties.

Because the majority of properties damaged and destroyed by Hurricane Sandy have mortgage loans, the mortgage industry has a vested interest in assisting homeowners to mitigate losses. Applying lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina can help both homeowners and mortgage servicers understand and address insurance and property preservation issues.

Insurance-related Issues
A big challenge servicers face after major disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy is that most homeowners do not fully understand their insurance policies and often find that they have insufficient policies to cover the damage. They also fall prey to unscrupulous contractors and adjusters.

  • Flood vs. Wind-driven Rain Damage — Determining the cause of the damage establishes whether it is covered under a standard homeowner’s policy or under a separate flood policy. Many homeowners do not have flood insurance policies because they are not required unless properties are located near a flood plain. Flood damage typically is not covered under a standard policy, although wind-driven rain damage is covered, and establishing the cause of the damage is usually dependent on the discretion of adjusters.
  • Adjuster and contractor fraud — Predatory practices by insurance adjusters and contractors were so prevalent after Hurricane Katrina that it spawned legislation requiring adjusters to become licensed or obtain temporary catastrophe licenses that are valid for up to 180 days. Even with such legislation, vulnerable homeowners fall prey to unscrupulous insurance adjusters and repair contractors who receive insurance money and then fail to complete repairs or assessments or perform shoddy work. The risk for mortgage servicers is that the value and condition of the property may be negatively impacted as a result.
  • Limited coverage — Insurance policies may not fully cover the costs of repairs and clean-up after a storm or hurricane. For example, a policy might cover the cost to remove a downed tree that has fallen onto a home, but it may not cover the cost to remove sticks and limbs from the yard.
  • State rulings — After major storms, states make declarations to categorize the event. This is important to servicers because specific insurance policies must be used to cover damage costs depending on what type of storm has been declared. For example, if the storm is declared a hurricane, the amount of money homeowners must pay out of pocket for deductibles differs from what they would pay using a standard homeowner’s policy. Hurricane insurance policies carry “percentage deductibles.” When a homeowner purchases a hurricane policy, the carrier determines the deductible based on a percentage of the total appraised value of the home. As an example, a homeowner with a home appraised at $250,000 and a policy that carries a five percent deductible for hurricane damage would have to pay $12,500 out of pocket.
  • Servicers omitted from claim checks — On current loans, insurance carriers issue two-party checks that need to be endorsed by both the servicer and the borrower. In an effort to expedite payment for minor damage or cost-of-living expenses, some insurance companies set up temporary locations and write checks directly to the homeowners. As an additional insured on the policy, the carrier has an obligation to include the servicer on any payment for damage to the dwelling regardless of the amount.
  • Recoverable depreciation — Understanding the policy requirements related to recoverable depreciation is important to ensure full reimbursement. Policies will only make full reimbursement for damage once repairs are completed. Until then, reimbursements are made based on the depreciated value of the property. The typical time frame for recoverable depreciation is 180 days after the date of loss. Insurers may extend the timeline to 24 months after major storms or disasters.
  • Property Preservation Issues
    Major storms and disasters present new challenges for servicers and their field service partners in assessing damage and making repairs. Some of those challenges include increased materials costs, accessibility of properties, mitigating further damage, and identifying vacancies.
  • Increased cost of materials — Increased demand and short supplies of building materials often cause a spike in costs after major storms. As a result, the cost-estimating software that the industry uses to determine the cost of repairs may not be accurate under the circumstances. It is important to review current material costs and pursue supplemental claims with the insurance carriers when necessary.
  • Property accessibility — Inspectors often have difficulty reaching properties in severely impacted areas, and shortages of fuel may limit the number of properties they can inspect. Inspection delays can hinder damage reporting, property securing, as well as emergency work needed to mitigate the damage.
  • Mitigating further damage — Servicers must take action to mitigate existing damage to prevent further damage. It is a requirement of investors and insurance companies. If servicers fail to properly mitigate losses, investors will not reimburse for the additional damage, and insurance companies will not reimburse to remediate resulting mold damage.
  • Identifying vacancies — After a severe storm, it is difficult for field servicers’ inspectors to determine vacancy when homeowners are forced to evacuate. Reporting a property as vacant when it is not can result in the denial of a homeowner’s insurance claims if force-placed coverage has been initiated by the servicer. Further, when borrowers evacuate, field service companies must decide whether to secure a property as well as determine other preservation measures that must be taken to protect the servicer’s collateral interests.

The aftermath of a storm is a chaotic time for borrowers whose homes have been damaged or destroyed. Servicers must take immediate action to communicate to homeowners and offer assistance through the rebuilding process.

Utilizing field service contractors, servicers can reach out to borrowers and provide contact information when borrowers have questions or need help to address issues. Servicers also should train customer service personnel to assure that borrowers receive accurate and timely responses and information regarding insurance coverage and other storm-related updates.

Additionally, servicers must emphasize to borrowers the importance of documenting all property damage before filing an insurance claim. Homeowners should take multiple photos and videos that are time-stamped. Some homeowners have used the daily newspaper to verify dates in their damage photos and videos.

Often homeowners do not know what to do or where to turn for help after a major storm event. By identifying key issues from previous storms and applying the lessons learned, servicers can better manage issues, reduce potential losses, and offer much-needed relief to homeowners impacted by the devastation.

To view the online article, please click here.

About Safeguard 
Safeguard Properties is the largest mortgage field services company in the U.S. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and based in Valley View, Ohio, the company inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, lenders,  and other financial institutions. Safeguard employs approximately 1,700 people, in addition to a network of thousands of contractors nationally. Website:



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.