Deadline Nears for Sandy Homeowners Insurance Claims
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently extended the deadline that allows homeowners to have their Hurricane Sandy flood claims reviewed if they feel they were shortchanged by their flood insurance carrier. The new deadline is October 15th. The previous deadline was September 15th, 2015.
FEMA, law firms, politicians, and consumer groups have been holding town hall meetings around the area to notify homeowners of the review process and the new extended deadline.
If you feel that your Hurricane Sandy flood claim was not handled properly or you were underpaid for the damages your home suffered, experts recommend that you contact FEMA in regards to a claim review.
False Insurance Reports
Roughly 7 months ago, FEMA decided that it would reopen claims after evidence was presented that pointed to engineering reports that were doctored in order to underpay Hurricane Sandy victims. These false reports often blamed soil erosion and not flooding for damaged foundations and even the complete collapse of houses.
According to reports, insurance adjusters falsely claimed that wind and not floodwater was responsible for homes being destroyed or completely moved off of their foundations. In March of 2015 FEMA sent over 146,000 letters to homeowners they felt had been underpaid by private insurers who sold FEMA backed National Flood Insurance Program policies.
FEMA later agreed to review any claim regardless of whether the homeowner had received a letter from them or not.
The Response Has Been Underwhelming
Despite the efforts made by FEMA and other consumer groups, less than 20,000 homeowners have attempted to have their claims reviewed. As of September FEMA had 12,649 claim reviews in process.
In those cases, 556 of the reviews have been completed and 298 cases are now closed which means an agreement was reached or the claim was withdrawn. Unfortunately, FEMA has reported only 11 homeowners receiving checks.
Experts say these dismal numbers have given pause to homeowners considering reopening their claims. They feel if more homeowners were receiving checks more people would be lining up to have their claims reviewed.
The less than stellar numbers is one reason the deadline has been extended.
FEMA Recommends Getting a Review
FEMA highly recommends that homeowners have their claims reviewed. According to one agency official, in 90% of the cases they review, the homeowner is owed some kind of money.
There is some confusion over the process which has homeowners concerned they may have to repay FEMA or their insurance company if the review determines they were overpaid. The letter sent out to homeowners by FEMA stated that 1% to 2% might actually owe FEMA money if they were overpaid.
The thought of having to re-pay FEMA has scared off many homeowners from the review process. Despite these concerns government officials and industry experts recommend that homeowners who feel they were underpaid should use the time provided by the new deadline to request a review of their claim
How You Should Proceed
Any National Flood Insurance Program policyholders who wish to have their file reviewed can call FEMA on the toll-free number (866) 337-4262. You can also visit fema.gov/sandyclaims to start the process online. Any homeowner who had NFIP flood insurance on the date of Hurricane Sandy is eligible for a review