Dream home remains a vacant lot Insurance companies delay settlement of fire claims

$1,800 monthly mortgage

Family waits for their $290,000 home to be rebuilt

September 24, 1997|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Nearly three months after Alex and Janet Yeung lost their new Crofton home in a fire, they are trapped in a morass of competing insurance claims and paying $1,800 a month for a house they can't live in.

Only a platform for the garage and the walls of the basement remain of the house that burned to the ground July 10.

"Right now, only the mailbox belong to us," said Alex Yeung from the couple's sushi bar and restaurant on Route 3.

The Yeungs bought the fully decorated, $290,000 home on Chelmsford Drive June 30 and leased it back to Ryland Homes, the builder, for use as a model and sales office until they could sell their home in Glen Burnie.

But 10 days later, fire destroyed the house.

Ryland promised to rebuild, but stopped after crews cleared the debris, awaiting a claim settlement from its insurance company. Ryland canceled the lease by the end of July, leaving the Yeungs paying $2,800 a month on both of their houses.

Neither Allstate, the Yeungs' insurance company, nor Reliance, Ryland's insurer, has offered to settle the claim or pay the Yeungs' living expenses.

According to the Yeungs, Allstate has questioned whether they told their sales representative they were leasing the house back to Ryland when they bought the homeowner's policy. The company also has questioned whether the policy covered the fire because the Yeungs had not yet moved, Janet Yeung said.

But Malcolm Halliday, an Allstate property manager, said his company did not begin investigating the Yeungs' policy until Sept. 10, when Reliance informed Allstate in writing that Reliance would not pay the claim.

The investigation should be complete by Friday, he said. County officials would not release the cause of the fire until the insurance investigation is finished.

Reliance has delayed paying the claim until it can ensure that it will not be waiving rights to reimbursement by Allstate, which holds the master policy, according to William Simmons, the Yeungs' attorney, who has worked with both groups to resolve the issue.

A Ryland spokeswoman did not respond to questions about Reliance's delay in paying the claim.

"Everybody's afraid that if they lay the money down, that's it, they won't get any back," Simmons said. "The real trouble is I've got these poor people stuck in the middle.

"They don't have a house and they're paying for it."

The Yeungs are hoping to iron out some of the details to help get construction under way when they meet Thursday with Simmons and representatives from both insurance companies and Ryland.

"I think the reason it's taken longer than anybody wanted is working with the insurance companies and weeding through all the red tape," said Ryland Homes spokeswoman Kristy Axness. "We're doing the best we can to help them through this situation."

Pub Date: 9/24/97

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