All Insurance recovering from ownership rift
June 11, 2008 · Updated 3:11 PM
When Chuck Delaire took back All Lines Insurance, the office was in disarray.
The man he sold it to in 1994 had all but abandoned the business, and employees were working irregular hours: from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. or 2-5 p.m.
Stacks of papers four feet high were scattered throughout the office, and the filing system was in chaos.
Delaire sold All Lines Insurance after seven years to a man from Renton on a secured loan. He retired, but the owner recently defaulted on payments and filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Delaire found the ailing business, which sells property and casualty insurance, back in his lap on Nov. 1.
When he sold the agency it had 5,000 active files, Delaire said. When he took it back there were 820. Many top clients had jumped ship, and Delaire is working to lure them back.
After consulting lawyers, Delaire opted to change the name of the business from All Lines Insurance to All Insurance, and to form a new corporation to shield himself from debts the former owner might have incurred.
That proved more easily said than done, however. The laws which guide such transitions have strict compliance rules mandating All Insurance be reappointed, or recertified, by every company with which it does business before taking payments or new clients.
There was a period of three or four weeks that, because of the complexity of the regulations, we could not take new clients and we could not take payments from existing policyholders. In some cases we still cant, Delaire said.
Representatives from companies the firm brokers with, including Superior, Oregon Mutual and Dairlyland Insurance, are in the process of reappointing All Insurance.
Some (companies) have called and said they have never seen it happen. It is a rarity that a company will be repossessed like this, Delaire said.
All Insurance posted a sign on the door of the Bucklin Hill office explaining the odd circumstances to potential clients.
We had a lot of customers who could understand what we were going through, but some could not. We couldnt violate the law without getting in trouble with the law, Delaire said.
Delaire has brought two of his sons on board to help run the shop, and his wife is also helping to sort the filing system. There are seven employees at the shop, which does the bulk of its business in personal, rather than commercial, insurance.
Delaire said he has renewed emphasis on customer service and restored normal business hours. But regardless of the quality of service, nothing can change the fact the firm still cant accept new clients or payments until it complies with regulations.
Nothing has stressed me more than in the last month when people came in and wanted to buy insurance and we couldnt let them. They walked out with money in their pockets, Delaire said.
Delaire hopes to have the trouble worked out in two or three weeks so he can return to retirement for the fifth time and leave his sons in charge.