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Unfortunately, many homeowners have experienced the effects of hailstorms on the roof of their homes. For many an unsuspecting owner, a nice man will show up at their door touting his company’s ability to quickly repair the roof for the insurance proceeds and promising to cover the owner’s deductible. Such an arrangement clearly is beneficial to the owner, in particular where the owner’s insurance carries a high deductible. The roofer is more than happy to procure the work by increasing the price of the work in excess of the normal charges to cover the deductible. By entering into and performing such agreement, the owner and roofer may very well be committing a crime under Texas Law.

Under Section 27.02 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, the roofer claims an offense where (1) it sells goods or services and advertises or promises to provide the good or service by paying all or part of any applicable insurance deductible or gives the other party a rebate of the applicable insurance deductible; (2) the good or service is paid for by the owner from proceeds of an insurance policy; and (3) the roofer knowingly charges in excess of the usual and customary charges by an amount equal to or greater than all or part of the deductible or relates the deductible to the owner. Such conduct is a Class A Misdemeanor in Texas punishable by a fine up to $4,000.00 and/or a jail term of up to one year.

The owner commits a Class A misdemeanor by simply submitting a claim under an insurance policy where the roofer is in violation of Section 27.02 or knowingly allows such a claim to be submitted, unless the owner promptly notifies the insurer of the excessive charges.

Such an arrangement can also support a felony under Texas law. Pursuant to Section 35.02 of the Texas Penal Code, the roofer or the owner commits an offense where either of them prepares and presents, or causes such to be presented, to the insurer a statement to support an insurance claim that the person knows to contain false or materially misleading information with the intent to defraud the insurer. Additionally, Section 35.02 of the Penal Code provides that the roofer or the owner commits an offense where either of them solicited, offers, pays or receives a benefit associated with the furnishing of goods or services where an insurance claim has been made with the intent to fraud the insurer.

The range of punishment under Section 35.02 is dependent on the value of the claim submitted. The following chart sets out the respective punishment classes:

Value of Claim Punishment Class

Less than $50.00 Class C misdemeanor

$50.00 < $500.00 Class B misdemeanor

$500.00 < $1,500.00 Class A misdemeanor

$1,500.00 < $20,000.00 State Jail Felony

$20,000.00 < $100,000.00 Third Degree Felony

$100,000.00 < $200,000.00 Second Degree Felony

more than $200,000.00 First Degree Felony

The value of the claim may be calculated by subtracting the amount of the valid portion of the claim from the total claim made. A rebuttable presumption exists that the owner or roofer caused the fraudulent claim to be prepared or submitted by simply submitting a fraudulent bill for payment of goods or services to the insurance carrier.

Class C misdemeanors carry the punishment of a fine not to exceed $500.00. Class B misdemeanors carry the punishments of a fine not to exceed $2,000.00, or a jail term of up to 180 days, or both. Class A misdemeanor punishments are discussed above.

A state jail felony carries the punishment of confinement in a state jail for a minimum term of 180 days up to 2 years. A third degree felony provides for confinement with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDC) for a term from 2 to 10 years. A second degree felony imposes imprisonment with the TDC for a term from 2 to 20 years. A first degree felony provides for a maximum confinement term of 5 to 99 years. Each of those felonies may also carry fines of up to $10,000.00 assessed in addition to imprisonment.

When confronted with a “too good to be true” situation, care should be taken not to turn an unfortunate casualty event into conduct that may cost additional money or personal loss of freedom.

I would like to thank my law partner Brian T. Cartwright for his significant contributions to this Article

R. Scott Alagood is board certified in Commercial and Residential Real Estate Law by the Texas Board of Specialization and can be reached at alagood@dentonlaw.com or http://www.dentonlaw.com.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince the early to mid-90’s the importance and value of minerals in North Texas has become clear. Where the surface of a property has been severed from the minerals underlying that property, serious problems can arise. The majority of purchasers of real estate want to utilize the surface of the property for a particular residential or commercial purpose. Because the minerals only have value when extracted from the land under which they sit, the rights of the mineral owner must supersede the rights of the surface owner. The mineral owner has a right to reasonably use the surface of land to develop its minerals. That right can easily interfere and come into conflict with the rights of the surface owner.

Owners and lenders must be aware of the potential interference of the surface by the mineral owner. State laws, local ordinances, specific mineral lease terms, and court rulings may provide some protection against interference with the use of the surface estate by the mineral owner. Recently, Texas title insurance has changed to also provide some protection in certain specific situations.

Where the surface use is paramount to the value of the land, such as an office building, retail center, single family residence, apartment complex, warehouse, manufacturing plant, or other surface intensive use, a prospective purchaser or lender may want to consider utilizing one of the T-19 endorsements to insure potential damage to the surface resulting from the development of the mineral estate. The T-19 endorsements consist of four separate endorsements.

The T-19 Restrictions, Encroachments, Minerals Endorsement may be utilized by a lender. The T-19 provides other coverages beyond interference by the mineral estate. With respect to the mineral estate, it insures the lender against loss sustained by reason of damage to an “Improvement” located on the property on the date of the policy or existing thereafter resulting from the exercise of a right to use the surface of the property for the extraction or development of minerals. The term “Improvement” is defined as an improvement that constitutes real property and includes landscaping, lawn, shrubbery, or trees which are affixed to the insured property. The T-19 endorsement cost is 5% of the basic premium for residential property and 10% for commercial property, but will not be less than $50.00.

The T-19.1 Restrictions, Encroachments, Minerals Endorsement may be obtained by an owner. As with the T-19 endorsement, it also protects against matters other than interference by the mineral estate. With respect to the mineral estate, it insures the owner against loss sustained by reason of damage to an “Improvement” located on the property on the date of the policy or existing thereafter resulting from the exercise of the mineral owner’s rights (same as the T-19). However, the definition of “Improvement” in the T-19.1 is different than that in the T-19. The T-19.1 provides coverage for buildings, structures, roads, walkways, driveways, or curbs which constitute real property, but excludes crops, landscaping, lawns, shrubbery or trees. The T-19.1 endorsement cost is 10% for a residential property or 5% if purchased along with the survey

exception amendment (which is 5% for a residential policy, and 15% for a commercial property or 10% if purchased along with the survey exception amendment (which is 15% for a commercial policy). As with the T-19, the minimum premium for the endorsement is $50.00.

If an owner or lender is not interested in the additional coverages provided by the T-19 and T- 19.1 endorsements (beyond that provided by the mineral estate) or if the price tag for those endorsements is too steep, then a T-19.2 or T-19.3 endorsement may be the way to go. These two endorsements both generally insure against damage resulting from the development of the mineral estate. However, they differ in a few ways.

The T-19.2 insures against damage to “permanent improvements (excluding laws, shrubbery, or trees)”, while the T-19.3 insures against damage to “permanent buildings”. In essence, the T- 19.2 will provide more coverage for damage to “improvements” which includes “permanent buildings” and other “improvements”, where the T-19.2 will only insure damage to “permanent buildings”.

Additionally, the T-19.2 may only be issued for real property of one acre or less improved or intended to be improved for one-to-four family residential use or for real property improved or intended to be improved for office, industrial, retail, mixed use, or multifamily purposes. Where the property is not of the type allowed under the T-19.2, the T-19.3 may provide mineral coverage for permanent buildings.

Both the T-19.2 and T-19.3 endorsements may be issued for either an owner’s or lender’s policy. For a residential or commercial owner’s policy, the endorsement cost is $50.00. There is no cost to include either endorsement in a lender’s policy.

While a title insurance underwriter is not legally required to issue these endorsements, in most situations they will. So don’t be afraid to ask for the additional coverages provided by these endorsements where it may be appropriate.

Scott Alagood is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in both Commercial and Residential Real Estate Law and may be reached at alagood@dentonlaw.com and http://www.dentonlaw.com.