CommunityPam's House Blend

Katrina homeowners and renters getting the big screw

I have to agree with Chris over at Facing South. Insurance companies are trying every which way to weasel out of their obligations, and people are raising hell with legitimate concerns.

Our friends at Alabama Watch, a consumer watchdog group, are members of Americans for Insurance Reform, which has set up a toll-free Katrina Insurance Hotline (1-888-450-5545; staffed M-F, 10 am to 6 pm EST). AIR reports they’re getting a flood (pardon the expression) of calls from people having problems with their insurance companies (surprise, surprise). Among the problems:

*** “Insurance companies are waffling about whether they will pay policyholders for certain types of damage. For example, many policyholders have policies covering wind and rain damage, but not flooding.”

*** “AIR has received many calls from Louisiana and Mississippi residents who are insured by smaller insurance companies (not the major companies like State Farm, Allstate or Travelers). Their insurance carriers are saying they are unwilling to supply policyholders with immediate living expenses until a claims adjuster has inspected their property. At the same time, these insurance representatives are unwilling to provide policyholders with even a broad estimate of when such an inspection might happen.”

This is why the issue of financial hardship for Katrina victims — especially those going deeper into debt in the shadow of the bankruptcy bill — is such a big deal, and why the right-wing response that “they can just collect insurance” is not the answer.

Kate’s sister (washed out of Ocean Springs, MS by Katrina) reports that run-arounds are going on in Mississippi. While homeowners deal with the above nightmares, think about people living in apartment complexes They are being screwed over by the management and left with little information. At first she was notified that her building was condemned. Now she has learned that they intend to “fix” the building, which has significant damage.

This building will be “repaired”; who’s going to monitor this construction, and what will happen to the people in the rest of the building when there’s no power? How long will it take – no one knows? Getting answers from the complex management has been mostly a fruitless exercise.

She was planning to moving to another town before the storm, so it’s not relevant in her case, but for those staying in that complex, they are left with little idea about what is going to happen, when they will have power, and well, that little matter called rent while the construction is going on. Some of the buildings don’t even have tarps on them, so the next rains are going to pour in, leaking through to the lower floors.

You have to wonder what kind of “fix” is actually going to take place in these complexes, with legitimate contractors in high demand, and with building inspectors stretched to the limit. There’s going to be a lot of shoddy work performed, and you best believe there are going to be electrical fires as a result.

Do you think all that work will be done to code?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding