Some policyholders are struggling while officials remind claimants to be “smart” when they file.
New York state officials are recommending that homeowners insurance policyholders be “smart” about the way that they file their claims related to damage from Sandy and are also stating that they should know that they are not required to accept the first offer that is made by their insurers.
There are many disagreements between claimants and insurers about issues such as flooding.
Many homeowners insurance customers are finding themselves battling out the details of their claims based on issues such as the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) and whether or not the home is a structure that was built before the map was created, or after. The reason is that, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), if the building has not been correctly constructed as per the FIRM, the owners could find themselves with insufficient coverage or may need to pay considerably elevated premiums.
Equally, if the building is properly constructed, the owner will have lower homeowners insurance costs.
The expenses if a structure has been built properly will mean that the owner will have lower homeowners insurance costs than would be paid on a pre-FIRM building that was covered under rates with a subsidy. The Base Flood Elevation (BFE) will also play an important role in what is considered to be covered, and what is not, particularly in terms of the way that the structure is built. Many homeowners are finding that though their first floors are raised, they are still below the BFE, and therefore the floor may be labeled as an “enclosure” and a homeowners insurance company may refuse to cover it.
That said, flood and homeowners insurance customers are recommended to inform themselves and obtain assistance if they feel that their insurers are refusing to cover them unjustly, or if they are being offered a payout that is below what they feel to be fair. It is important to avoid falling victim to the misinterpretation of current state laws and to protect against potential scam artists. According to the director of Public Affairs for the New York State Department of Financial Services, David Neustadt, “If people are having trouble with their claim, they can call our hotline, file a complaint on our website or send a written complaint.”