Archive for the tag 'insurance'

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Homeowners around the city received a letter from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection recently, informing them of a new insurance program covering the water and sewer lines connecting their homes to the public system. The timing of the letter – just weeks after Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the area’s infrastructure – raised alarm for many, who sent Sheepshead Bites e-mails and Facebook messages wondering if this was a scam.

Well, it’s not. We spoke to Department of Environmental Protection representatives last week, and the program has been in development since long before Sandy.

“In terms of this program, while the timing is a coincidence, it does not have anything to do with Hurricane Sandy,” said Chris Gilbride, communications director for the DEP.

Keep reading to find out more about this program and what it covers.

Photo by Erica Sherman.

The New York State Department of Financial Services mobile unit is stationed in Manhattan Beach until 7:00 p.m. tonight, assisting residents and business owners with bank and insurance issues. And they’ve got company: representatives from several local banks who will hopefully help ease lending and the release of tied-up insurance funds.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz writes:

On Monday, March 4th, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., representatives of five of New York’s largest banks and mortgage servicers will be stationed in the Department of Financial Services’ Mobile Command Center outside P.S. 195, 131 Irwin Street (between Shore and Oriental Boulevards) offer one-on-one help to homeowners.

JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, CitiMortgage and Ocwen Loan Servicing will be on hand. Other institutions sending representatives include OneWest Bank and Assurant, which will represent dozens of smaller banks and mortgage servicers.

… As a member of the Assembly’s Committee on Insurance, I heard testimony at a hearing last week which shed light into policyholders’ experiences with insurance companies in the four months since Sandy struck. Thousands of residents and store owners are still struggling to rebuild their homes and reopen their businesses, and for many of them, difficulties with banks and insurance claims are the primary reason why this process is taking so long.

Insurers typically issue checks jointly to a homeowner and the homeowner’s mortgage bank or servicer following the settlement of a large insurance claim. That means the bank needs to endorse the check before the homeowner may access the funds. Dual endorsement is a standard requirement of mortgage notes and insurance contracts to protect the lender’s interest. Banks may also require proof that repairs have been made before endorsing checks.

Last month, the Department of Financial Services found that banks were holding more than $200 million in insurance funds from Storm Sandy victims; the Department urged the banks to use maximum discretion and effort to speed the release of funds and asked Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to announce emergency reforms to their rules to provide banks and mortgage servicers with even more discretion to release funds.

The five participating banks and servicers will be immediately releasing an estimated $70-80 million to current borrowers as a result of these rule changes.

The Department of Financial Services is also available to anyone who has questions or concerns about general insurance-related issues.

If you can’t attend, you can still get help by calling the department at (800) 339-1759. Insurance information is also available on the department’s website.

Source: NYS DFS

If you need help with an insurance issue, the New York State Department of Financial Services’ (DFS) Insurance Response Unit is coming to Sheepshead Bay.

Staff from DFS will be providing insurance assistance from its Mobile Command Center (MCC) on the corner of Sheepshead Bay Road and Emmons Avenue (in front of El Greco Diner), March 2 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

They will be helping homeowners and business owners with:

  • City, state and federal relief programs and how to get help
  • Questions about the insurance claims process in New York
  • Seeking resolution on your claims with your insurer or bank
  • Filing an official complaint against an insurer or bank.

Bring all relevant documents with you when you visit the MCC, such as correspondence with your insurer or bank.

If you can’t visit the MCC in person you can always get help with insurance issues or file complaints via the NYS Disaster Relief site www.nyinsure.ny.gov or by calling the Disaster Relief Hotline at (800) 339-1759 Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

After Superstorm Sandy hit us late last October, everyone knew that the future of maintaining a residential home close to the water was not going to be the same. One of the earliest signs of the changing reality for coastal home owners was FEMA’s designation of flood zone lines further inward. This act forces thousands of people to buy flood insurance and further compels them to elevate their homes three feet above sea level at the risk of facing staggering insurance rates.

As homeowners prepare to meet these new regulations, a bipartisan City Council effort has proposed legislation that would ensure quality control of the tricky and expensive elevation process, according to a report by NY1.

Council members Vincent Ignizio, James Oddo and Christine Quinn expressed the need for safety regulations and quality control in the house elevation process at a press conference yesterday. Ignizio and Oddo went on a fact-finding mission to New Orleans to meet with Louisiana officials on the best way to craft legislation that would protect homeowners and ensure safety when it comes to home elevation construction:

The councilmen took a picture of a house in Louisiana that was placed on tall stilts but did not have a staircase.

“Make sure you have a process in place and you have licensed people doing it. Because what you had in New Orleans was you had people come from all over the country,” Ignizio said. “It was your classic story of, ‘Hey this guy said he would raise your house for $50,000? I’ll do it for 20 grand, just give me the 20 grand, I’ll take care of it.’ And they would do a terrible job.”

Council member and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, also stressed the importance of getting home elevation well regulated and supervised before a slew of work gets underway.

“We want to make sure that the elevation work is done safely and appropriately. Elevating a home is simply not lifting a house and putting it on stilts. It’s a complex process and proper measures have to be taken before and during the work to make sure it’s done in the safest way possible.”

As we previously reported, expenses will be high for homeowners looking to meet the new regulations.

According to the New York Times, a $250,000 home with a ground floor four feet below sea level, will have to pay a hefty $9,500 a year in flood insurance. By comparison, a home hoisted three feet above the flood line will only have to pay $427 a year.

 

Source: FEMA via the New York Times

Earlier in the month, we reported that FEMA was planning to redraw and expand the flood zone lines for New York City for the first time since 1983. The redrawn flood zones, which carry heavy financial consequences for homeowners living in those regions, are officially here, according to a report in the New York Times.

FEMA was redrawing the maps right before Superstorm Sandy struck. The new lines place more 35,000 homes in flood zones, creating an unavoidable rise in insurance rates while also forcing the city to adapt the building code to account for potential floods. The Times explained in greater detail what the redrawn flood zone lines means for the city:

The maps will not formally go into effect for about two years, but the mayor’s office was already preparing an executive order to help owners of damaged homes rebuild to higher standards. That means that a badly damaged home that was not in the old flood zone, but is in the new one, would be allowed to rebuild to prepare for dangers predicted in the new maps. For instance, a home could be hoisted onto posts or pilings, which might have previously been disallowed because of zoning. “We’re working on an order that will enable people to rebuild, but rebuild in a way that’s safer,” said Caswell F. Holloway, the city’s deputy mayor for operations.

The expenses will undoubtedly be high for people forced to meet the new building regulations. According to the New York Times, a $250,000 home with a ground floor four feet below sea level, will have to pay a staggering $9,500 a year in flood insurance. By comparison, a home hoisted three feet above the flood line will only have to pay $427 a year.

FEMA is looking to help offset costs by providing $30,000 to homeowners to meet the new regulations when rebuilding. Whether that will be enough to raise a house on stilts is another question entirely.

“This is going to be very rough on people,” Chuck Reichenthal, district manager for Brooklyn’s Community Board 13, told the Times. “Insurance is going to zoom through the roof.”

Photo by Erica Sherman

Three months have passed since Superstorm Sandy swept through our community, but the deadline to apply for FEMA disaster assistance, January 28, has not yet passed, though its getting closer.

With just a week to go before FEMA accepts its last applicants, they put out a press release reminding people of just who qualifies for assistance and how to get it. Here are the relevant details for those looking to apply:

Who Qualifies for FEMA Disaster Assistance?

To qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a survivor of Hurricane Sandy must meet certain conditions.

First, the individual or household losses must have occurred in an area covered by the presidential disaster declaration for New York, which includes 13 counties.

  • Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester.

The survivor must register with FEMA. There are several ways to do this:

  • Via smartphone or tablet, go to m.fema.gov or download the FEMA app.
  • Call 800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585.
  • For 7-1-1 Relay or Video Relay Services (VRS), call 800-621-3362.
  • The toll-free telephone numbers operate 7 a.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week until further notice.
  • A FEMA Language Assistance Line is available for those who need interpretation services in languages other than English or Spanish. Call: 866-333-1796.

The deadline to register with FEMA is Jan. 28 in New York.

If the applicant has insurance, he or she must file a claim with the insurance company.

For housing assistance

  • The damage to the property is not covered by insurance or the insurance settlement is insufficient to cover the losses.
  • The applicant or someone who lives in the household is a citizen of the United States, a non-citizen national, or a qualified alien.
  • The applicant must have a valid Social Security number.
  • The damaged home is where the applicant usually lives and was living at the time of the disaster.

Who Qualifies for FEMA Disaster Assistance?

A survivor may not be eligible for housing assistance if:

  • The home that was damaged is a secondary or vacation residence.
  • Expenses resulted only from leaving the home as a precaution and the applicant was able to return to the home immediately after the incident.
  • The applicant has refused assistance from his or her insurance provider.
  • The only losses are business losses.
  • The damaged home is located in a designated flood hazard area and the applicant’s community is not participating in the National Flood Insurance Program.                                         o In this case, the flood damage to the home would not be covered, but the applicant may qualify for rental assistance or assistance for items not covered by flood insurance.

For more information on New York’s disaster recovery, visit www.fema.gov/SandyNYwww.twitter.com/FEMASandy, www.facebook.com/FEMASandy and www.fema.gov/blog.

Recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

And, just to be clear, this deadline is for new applicants only. If you already applied and are looking to appeal or sort out additional documentation, FEMA will continue working with existing applicants beyond the deadline.

Source: Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’ Office

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz co-sponsored a couple of bills designed to protect residents from shady insurers (A.2287) as well as require insurance companies to cut through the red tape when processing storm damage claims (A.1092), according to a press release sent out by his office.

Cymbrowitz wants to create a Homeowners Bill of Rights (A.2287), which would require insurers to provide those who own their own homes with easy-to-understand documents clearly stating what exactly their insurance covers, how and when to file a claim, and where to obtain coverage in the case of an emergency.

“It is imperative that homeowners know their rights and aren’t left out in the cold without the necessary insurance coverage they need to rebuild their lives,” Cymbrowitz said.

The purpose behind the other bill (A.1092) is to create a new set of requirements that ensure speedier responses from insurers to residents who are filing claims in the aftermath of a major disaster, such as Superstorm Sandy.

“People can’t wait forever to get their lives back to normal,” Cymbrowitz said in the release. “There has to be an industry standard in processing claims so that people know what to expect and insurers can be held accountable for their actions.”

Source: Wikimedia Commons via Wikipedia

Well, it took a verbal smack down from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and an all out general hatred of Congress for it to happen, but Congress finally did their jobs Tuesday night and passed the $50.7 billion aid package for Superstorm Sandy relief according to a report in the New York Times.

The effort passed 241 to 180, with 49 Republican lawmakers responsibly crossing party lines to join the 192 Democrats in favor of the measure. Congress had already passed a $10 billion aid package earlier this month, bringing the total aid package north of $60 billion.

Sixty billion is a large number, but still short of the total $82 billion in damages calculated by the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Still, the money will go a long way to in helping the area get back on its feet, according to the Times:

The emergency aid measure would help homeowners whose homes have been damaged or destroyed, provide assistance to business owners who experienced losses as well as reinforce shorelines, repair subway and commuter rail systems, fix bridges and tunnels, and reimburse local governments for emergency expenditures.

As we’ve previously reported, much of the recovery for home and business owners cannot begin until the Federal FEMA money starts rolling into people’s hands. Hopefully, the passage of this bill will set off a wave of rebuilding.

Still need some financial help to bridge the gap between insurance and FEMA funds in your personal Sandy Recovery? Neighborhood Recovery Fund (NRF) is a fund created to provide financial assistance to homeowners devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and they’re seeking applications.

The NRF’s main goal is to make sure that New York City homeowners have access to affordable sustainable housing by providing up to a $5,000 grant or interest free loan for expenses not covered by FEMA and homeowner insurances.

According to the Center for New York City Neighborhood’s website, the NRF covers the following expenses, depending on the availability of funds:

  • Expenses for Temporary Shelter
  • Relocation expenses
  • Utility Arrears
  • Mortgage payment or arrears (if ineligible for MAP)
  • Income shock related to displaced tenant
  • Temporary or preventative repairs, including:
    • Winterization
    • Sealing of building
  • Selected pre-approved home repairs, including:
    • Mold abatement
    • Removal of drywall
    • Replacement of boiler or hot water heater
  • Development of scope of work for repairs or contractor estimates
  • Gap financing or credit enhancement for other repair program

Applicants applying for NRF funding will be reviewed on a case by case basis. Priority is given to applicants whose annual household income is at or below 200 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). Here is a chart breaking down exactly what this means.

Family Size 200% AMI
1 $120,300
2 $137,450
3 $154,650
4 $171,800
5 $185,550
6 $199,300

If you are a homeowner and wish to apply to the program, you can call (646) 786-0888, and you’ll be connected with a free housing consular or legal services provider who will help you work through your application process. After you apply, it will take 1-2 weeks for your case to be reviewed.

Here is the full contact address:

Sustainable Neighborhoods, LLC
c/o CNYCN
74 Trinity Place, Suite 1400
New York, NY 10006

E-mail: NRF@cnycn.org

Phone: (646) 786-0888

Fax: (646) 349-1578

Courtesy of Lisanne Anderson

Last week we reported on a letter Councilman Domenic Recchia submitted to the New York City Department of Sanitation, urging them to extend their January 14 deadline for Sandy related bulk-pickup.  Well, his pleas have been answered as the DSNY announced that they are extending their special storm debris collection deadline until Monday, February 18.

The call to extend the deadline was considered vital because many homeowners devastated by Superstorm Sandy needed more time to wait for the payments from FEMA and insurance agencies before they could begin the process of cleaning up and gutting out their damaged homes.

While the extension of the deadline is welcome, its worth noting that the Sanitation Department couldn’t push the date past February 18 because of resources needed in case of snow-related emergencies.

For additional information on DSNY refuse collection, you can call 311 or visit www.nyc.com/sanitation.

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