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Nassau County Legislature

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As July 4th Approaches, Denenberg Seeks Relief for Struggling Homeowners Post-Sandy

The lawmaker demands insurance companies, banks release funds immediately

 

(MINEOLA, NY) – Legislator Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) announced Wednesday he is pushing for legislation to help those struggling to pay for repairs to their homes following Superstorm Sandy. He seeks to spread awareness of proposed bills that would potentially help release much-needed funds in a reasonable amount of time from insurance companies, as well as banks or mortgage lenders, who have delayed payment to Nassau residents having a hard time paying to cool their homes and rebuild.

As the 4th of July approaches, as well as hurricane season, many remain unable to live in their homes and are in desperate need of these funds. Homeowners are forced to dip into their savings accounts because insurance companies and banks are holding up the process by delaying payment and misinforming their customers. With the two bills that he originally proposed in March, Legislator Denenberg and his Democratic colleagues are hopeful that Sandy victims can receive the money they desperately need to rebuild their homes and find some sort of normalcy restored to their lives.

“It has been 247 days since Sandy struck and people are still not in their homes because the money they are rightfully due is being held up,” said Legislator Denenberg. “This has become a long and devastating road to recovery, and it is unacceptable.”

The first bill Legislator Denenberg and the entire Democratic caucus are supporting would amend the County Administrative Code regarding Unfair Trade Practices to provide a more speedy approval of insurance claims, as carriers are suspected of purposefully delaying and denying payment to customers in dire need.

Under this law, if the insurer wrongfully denies a valid claim, fails to answer a claim within 30 days or delays payment without providing reason for doing so, they can be subject to substantial fines and penalties. The law also gives the individual policy holder or the County Attorney the right to sue the insurance company for immediate payment of the full insurance benefits plus interest, and to recover additional damages including (but not limited to) compensation for emotional distress, property damage and attorney’s fees.

The second, proposed by Legislator Denenberg, would require banks to promptly release homeowners’ insurance payments in the event of a major disaster. This would ensure that once the money is released, customers would receive their payment in a reasonable amount of time – not several weeks or months.

Banks or lending institutions that hold the mortgage on a home are considered “part owner.” Any insurance claim that is paid out for damages must be signed-off by the homeowner and bank or lending institution that holds the mortgage.

Numerous complaints from residents state that bank delays and burdensome requirements have delayed their ability to move forward with necessary home repairs. In one Merrick homeowner’s case, the definition of a single word has led to an increasingly frustrating recovery process:

The resident, who wished to remain anonymous, only received partial coverage for damages to his raised ranch because of FEMA’s definition of “basement,” which they have now deemed his lower level (despite the initial adjuster stating it was not). According to this resident, his home is placed entirely aboveground, and if the earth in front of the home were removed, one could walk from the street in front of the home to the lower floor level while always walking uphill.

“The FEMA position in my situation absolutely defies logic,” he said. “Everything is a negotiation. This is not the way it’s supposed to be.”

This Merrick resident appealed to FEMA on June 13 and is awaiting a response. The initial adjuster came in November and did not send a declination until March 13, supposedly. This was not received by the resident until June 4.

These complications also affect local businesses and contractors, as they are relying on the rebuilding of Nassau County to help them recover the business they lost as a result of Sandy. If enacted, these laws would help expedite the payment of insurance proceeds to homeowners affected by Sandy or a similar natural disaster in the future.