06 Jan 2009
A Flood of Insurance Claims Outstanding From Hurricane Ike
As if Hurricane Ike wasn’t enough to contend with, now the residents of the state of Texas are starting another battle – trying to get insurance claims fulfilled and to get the Federal Hazard Mitigation Grant to buy their flood prone homes…
Hundreds of beach houses in Galveston, Texas were destroyed earlier this year by the ferocious Hurricane Ike.
Some of the properties that were behind the Sea wall are now on the beach as the land was eroded but, amazingly, that is the least of the homeowners’ worries.
More than 1,500 houses were substantially damaged by Hurricane Ike and many of the owners did not have flood insurance, so are reliant on Government flood relief funds to salvage their homes.
But, Texan officials have caused uproar by saying that homes located on the public beach are now public property and owned by the Government, so they are refusing to spend money on helping owners raise their homes above the base flood elevation, or buy them out, as many want.
The Federal Hazard Mitigation Grant was designed to save taxpayers from paying for future flood claims and aims to help pay for measures that will stop the homes from flooding or being damaged further.
But, Texan officials are saying that structures on the public beach might not qualify for the programme as, according to Greg Pekar, the State Hazard Mitigation Officer, “It would be a waste of taxpayer money to pay for something the Government already owns.
“According to federal regulations, State law requires houses that end up on the public beach to be removed without any promise of compensation.”
“Although many beach-front property owners say the Government should buy them out as part of storm recovery efforts, federal funds have never been used to buy property on the public beach,” Mr Pekar added.
Unsurprisingly, an argument is now set to ensue over which public beach boundary is be used to qualify property for the grant programme as it has moved since the hurricane.
If the Federal Government says state officials must use the post-storm line of vegetation as the qualifier for the grant funds, none of the houses now on the public beach will qualify for a buyout.
But if the state uses the pre-storm public beach boundary, almost all of the houses would qualify and the local homeowners are planning to petition the Government to get them to use this boundary.
So, for now, furious property owners in Galveston are continuing to make mortgage payments on property that might no longer belong to them.
There have been more than 530,000 insurance claims filed in the wake of Hurricane Ike, and over 1,700 of those have complained to the state about their insurance companies, citing claims delays and unsatisfactory offers and denials.
As if Ike wasn’t enough to deal with, homeowners have now entered into yet another battle - to get what they consider a fair settlement of their claims.
Some are complaining to regulators and hiring their own experts or lawyers, but state regulators say that they are monitoring how claims are resolved to ensure that people are treated fairly.
Jerry Hagins, a Spokesman for the Texas Department of Insurance, said, “We certainly want to hear if there are any complaints about the claims process.”
News submitted by Jon Moore, The Move Channel