By Anessa V. Cohen
Once again, just when we thought we were getting to the bottom of the barrel of Sandy rehabilitation stories and the last hurrahs of getting whatever we can from New York Rising, a new twist on an old complaint comes back like a ricochet!
A federal judge on Long Island ordered insurance companies to release thousands of documents used to deny Superstorm Sandy flood claims, saying it appears engineers falsified reports to avoid paying homeowners.
This is a story we had given up on! So many Sandy victims just trying to settle with their flood insurers and get the money needed to do repairs found themselves in a position where insurance companies were sending in engineers supposedly to assist in photographing and documenting the damage. Instead of receiving money for repairs, however, multitudes of homeowners received denials of service from their insurers based on these reports. Instead of documenting the storm damage, those reports tried to show that the homeowners had long-term erosion preexisting in their homes. The insurance companies used that as an excuse not to pay insurance monies for flood damages.
In some cases, engineering reports presented to insurance companies showed pictures of long-term erosion that did not exist in the homes that the engineers had inspected. These were pictures of unknown homes. The pictures showing deterioration had been switched from the correct pictures and were used to depict damage as if in the insured homes.
Although many homeowners complained at the time, both to their insurance companies and to FEMA, nothing was done and it seemed as if FEMA was content to let things be so as not to have to pay these claims.
Homeowners in this situation either gave up trying to collect money from their insurance companies or retained lawyers to sue the companies in court.
This case in which a federal judge ordered the insurance companies to release all engineers’ reports and other documents pertaining to fraudulent denials can be a real game-changer for those homeowners who were dealt a bad deal by insurers contending that homes were damaged due to long-term erosion rather than Superstorm Sandy.
Now that this story has hit the news, we wait with bated breath to see how far-reaching this judge’s decision will be and if, finally, after two years, these homeowners will be compensated the way they should have been initially. Stay tuned! 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.