By Anessa V. Cohen
My e‑mail inbox has been filled with letters asking if I have any information about how to handle problems with insurance claims for Sandy. Imagine—nearly one year later! Below is some information from government websites, in hopes that those still having difficulties can find some advocates or solutions. I tend to think that more help will be forthcoming from New York State as opposed to the Feds, but all those who have success, please pass your information along to me by e‑mail so I can post it here.
To mark the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will offer a series of videos, photos, news releases, and Web posts on the Sandy New York webpage, www.fema.gov/SandyNY.
In the last few weeks, the New York State Department of Financial Services has announced investigations and new regulations about insurance-company practices following Superstorm Sandy.
Three companies, Narragansett Bay, Tower and Kingstone, are being investigated for failure to send adjusters in a timely manner, failure to process claims in a timely manner, and inability of homeowners to contact company representatives. If you are having these problems with these or other companies, contact the NY State Department of Financial Services Storm Hotline, 800-339-1759 or visit www.dfs.ny.gov.
NY Insurance Reg 64 requires inspection of damaged property within six business days, and insurers have fifteen days to make a decision on the claim. If for one reason or another that deadline can’t be met, they must send an explanatory letter to the homeowner. There are now other requirements, including:
• Extensions for decisions on claims are now only 30 days;
• Extension letters to insured must estimate time of completion of claim;
• Insurers must report weekly to DFS after 15 days; and
• Companies must tell claimants which documents and forms are needed.
• A DFS emergency regulation directs insurers to offer and pay for voluntary mediation, administered by the American Arbitration Association, for open and denied insurance claims related to Sandy.
• Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, have agreed to accelerate the release of insurance proceeds to homeowners; payments should go directly to repair and rebuild damaged property and not misapplied to outstanding loan balances.
The DFS also has a Mobile Command Center that is set up in various locations in New York City and on Long Island to help homeowners, renters, and business owners directly. To find out the locations, call the hotline number given above. v
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker and a licensed N.Y.S. mortgage broker with over 20 years of experience, offering full-service residential and commercial real-estate services (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and mortgaging services (First Meridian Mortgage) in the Five Towns and throughout the tri-state area. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa.cohen@AVCrealty.com.