Isabel Q&A with The Sun's Andrew A. Green

Baltimore County reporter answers readers' questions about dealing with insurance problems and other issues related to storm's aftermath

March 31, 2004|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

If you receive unsatisfactory responses from federal or state officials about your claim, please feel free to e-mail Green at

Charles H. Willard, Stevensville: I have a gazebo, wharf area and bulkhead that were destroyed by the hurricane. I have flood insurance but was told that there is no coverage for these items and that I couldn't purchase any type of coverage for these types of things. Is this correct?

Green: Unfortunately, the policy does not cover structures like gazebos and piers, and private insurance policies don't either. The U.S. Senate appears likely to ask for a re-evaluation of the policy, however, so those things may be covered in the future.

Dot Hardy, Dorchester: We were victims of Isabel in Dorchester County. We have flood insurance and received depreciated compensation checks. My question: Because the check was over $20,000, our mortgage company's name was third party and is holding funds in escrow until an inspector comes to see final work completed. In the meantime, we have had to use our home equity money to fund all projects. I feel they thought I was not going to use the funds to rebuild, and I don't believe this was fair. It's been long, hard months of work and labor and hardship for us having to travel from Baltimore to Cambridge. Is this fair?

Green: Whether it's fair or not, many people have experienced similar problems with their mortgage holders. You might try calling the Maryland Insurance Administration, 410-468-2000, to see if they can help persuade the bank to release more money up front.

Cathy Howell, Edgewater: We're demolishing our house and rebuilding. I have heard that there are loans that are not income-related. Are these restricted only to loans that are above 85 percent value of the new house? Also, I'm one of many who is not happy with insurance but haven't submitted anything to the commissioner. What is the easiest way to submit?

Green: Part of the legislation the state just passed, House Bill 3, or HB 3, creates a partnership with banks to provide the non-income restricted loans you mention. The primary purpose, as you suggest, is for loans that are above the banks' normal limit. However, another part of the program allows the state to subsidize the interest on those loans for a period of five years. For more information, call: 1-866-227-2497, Maryland's Department of Housing and Community Development.

Linda D., Baltimore: If we have already settled for our flood insurance payment, should we find out what software was used by the adjuster to calculate our losses? How do we know what software should have been used?

Green: Officials with the National Flood Insurance Program will review your claim regardless of what software was used. NFIP officials have said that if the software, or anything else, resulted in a low-ball settlement, they will adjust your claim. Call them at 1-800-427-4661.

Harry Curland, Annapolis: I have already signed a "proof of loss" and received payment. Can I still appeal for higher compensation? What documentation is necessary? What is the procedure to appeal?

Green: Yes, you can still appeal, though the NFIP is still working out the process. NFIP is at 1-800-427-4661.

Alice Baker, Parkville: Does HB 3 make any provision for seniors whose property is free and clear but do not have the means to rebuild. I asked [Baltimore County] Executive [James T.] Smith Jr.'s aide but did not get an answer. Why can't these seniors get these loans and pay only interest until property is disposed of? I don't think reverse mortgages, like [Del.] Maggie L. McIntosh spoke of is the answer.

Green: HB 3 does allow you to take out the loans and pay only the interest until the property is sold or transferred. Depending on your income, you may not have to pay interest at all. Call 1-866-227-2497 for information. reader from Miller's Island: If my house is insured for $105,000 and insurance only paid $30,000 for repairs, now since the house is considered to have greater than 50 percent damage and needs to be replaced per Baltimore County Code, will the flood insurance make up the difference?

Green: Not automatically. You need to contact the NFIP and ask them to re-examine your claim. That number again is 1-800-427-4661.

Norma Norris, Grasonville: The flood insurance adjuster came up with a figure of $34,000 to repair our waterfront home. This turned out to be about half of what it cost to do the repairs. We have had to get a home equity loan to make up the difference, but this is another financial burden on us. What recourse do we have now to try and increase the payment to us?

Green: Again, try contacting the NFIP, 1-800-427-4661.

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