By Hannah Reich Berman
For close to 54 years, my insurer was a company that is known nationwide. It is a large and respectable firm. Describing them as my insurer is somewhat disingenuous since I had nothing to do with selecting this company. Along with many other major decisions, selecting an insurance company was my husband’s responsibility. He also took care of all auto purchases, made all of the mortgage payments (when we had a mortgage), and chose where we did our banking. He paid our taxes and dealt with the gardener and the man who serviced our sprinkler system. He was in charge of hiring someone to shovel snow after a storm, and . . . drumroll here . . . he was responsible for taking out the trash!
I, on the other hand, handled things such as how we decorated our home and what we would have for dinner each evening. It is unclear to me who had the larger set of responsibilities or the more important ones but that was just the way it was at our place.
After I lost Arnie Berman—or Hubby, as I often called him—everything had to become my responsibility. Fast-forward four years and I weathered Hurricane Sandy (no pun intended) on my own and did what had to be done. With more than a little unease, I tolerated the sight of the ugly little water snakes and the eels that took up residence in the nearly five feet of water that had inundated my basement. I dealt with the many workers who pumped out the water and tossed out everything that had been stored in the basement, and then the crew who cleaned the basement and tore out the walls to check for mold. Gradually, I replaced what needed to be replaced and handled the financial expenditures that were associated with the purchases. After several months, I thought I was done with Sandy and its aftermath. Little did I know! It never occurred to me that there would be further repercussions.
As I had no flood insurance at that time, I was, like everyone else in that situation, told to contact FEMA. I did just that and I received some compensation. I also contacted my insurance carrier and spoke to a representative who provided me with the necessary form to fill out in order to put in a claim on my homeowner’s policy. I put in the claim and waited for the adjuster to come survey the damage. When he appeared, several weeks later, I thought of him as a knight in shining armor.
But the armor tarnished on the very same day, when he told me that, because of a $2,400 deductible on my policy, I was entitled to the fabulous sum of $157. That dollar amount is not a misprint! That was exactly what he handed me, and he did it rather quickly. As I recall, he handed the check to me, made sure not to make eye contact, and then beat a hasty retreat to his mini truck and drove off into the sunset. Smart fellow! He probably didn’t want to be around when I had my breakdown. So I had it by myself.
For some reason, one that is still unknown to me, nothing that I had lost was covered by my homeowner’s policy. I am not sure why we bothered to have the policy. It didn’t cover my washing machine, clothes dryer, central air-conditioning unit, circuit-breaker panel, heating unit, or water heater—all of which were underwater. I bit the bullet and replaced it all. There was no choice in the matter. This illustrious insurance carrier of mine did very little for me. But all that changed last month. And in the future they will do even less!
In late August, a few weeks shy of the first anniversary of the flood, this same insurance company sent a letter to me. As there were no payments due at that time, I was surprised when I saw the envelope with the company logo on it. Being a cockeyed optimist, I was hopeful. Had someone within the company had a change of heart? It was a naïve and foolish thought but one that I held onto for a few seconds. Were they going to offer me some money after all? Another foolish thought, of course! As it turned out, the correspondence was to inform me that they would not be renewing my homeowner’s policy and, as of October 17, I would have no coverage. They were giving me the boot. I had six weeks to find another company that was willing to insure me.
Refusing to bother my children, I decided to do this on my own. Well, not exactly on my own—I immediately turned to Jeffrey Rosenberg, who is known to be an A‑1 insurance broker. I had recently called him for flood insurance. Hurricane season is fast approaching and I was told that anyone who does not have flood insurance would get nothing from FEMA if there were another flood. Jeff got the flood insurance for me and now, once again, I needed his services.
As soon as he picked up the phone, my first order of business was to kvetch. I told him about the letter I had received and before he had a chance to say a word, I said, “They can’t do that to me. Can they? Is it even legal?” He patiently waited until I came up for air and then he set me straight. He informed me that they can do it to me and that it is legal. It shut me up—but only briefly. I had more to say but, since I don’t like to kvetch by phone, I went into his office to do more complaining.
After a few minutes of allowing me to rant, he used his heavy artillery to snap me out of it. “Hannah, think about it. If you were an insurer, would you insure you?” That said it all. I was still sore about it but I didn’t utter another word. I put myself in his capable hands, left his office, and waited for him to find an insurer for me, which he did within a week. And while I waited to hear back from him, I hoped that I wouldn’t have to pay much higher premiums than I had been paying to my old company. He secured for me a homeowner’s policy with a new company and, for now at least, my premiums are the same as they were before. What will happen a year from now nobody can guarantee.
Thousands of other residents of Long Island’s South Shore are in the same boat. They got the ax just as I did. But it is not true that “misery loves company.” The knowledge that others received the same notification has done nothing to assuage my anger. I remain with a few uncharitable thoughts on the matter. That’s the way it is. v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.