The following is a Daily News article:
Thousands of families still struggling in the aftermath of Sandy are learning that some insurance companies don’t seem to think the storm was a hurricane.
Alex Savoie’s broker told her that her family’s Rockaways home was covered for hurricanes, so when Sandy trashed the place, she assumed she’d be okay.
To Savoie’s surprise, the insurer said she wasn’t covered because the damage was caused by a flood — not a hurricane. Because she doesn’t have flood insurance, she’s out of luck.
“They told me I’m at the end of the line,” Savoie, 41, said this week, standing inside the gutted remains of her first floor on Shore Front Parkway in the Rockaways. “The bottom line is very simple. I had hurricane insurance. It should cover a hurricane.”
Homeowners in low-lying areas across the city have found themselves in the same situation. They’re turning to the feds in droves after their insurers won’t pay up.
About 220,000 homeowners in New York City and Long Island have registered for emergency housing cash from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA has approved $557 million for homeowners. Some of the money is for temporary rent payments, but much of it is for emergency home repairs not covered by insurance. The insurance gap is an emerging issue along Savoie’s hard-hit stretch of Shore Front Parkway.
The Oct. 29 Sandy surge busted up the boardwalk across the street, breaking it into thousands of wooden projectiles headed straight for their homes.
A huge chunk of boardwalk slammed into Savoie’s three-story home. One long plank burst through her wall like a spear into a first-floor bedroom. The resulting hole allowed the Atlantic to bash its way in, tearing out walls and dragging in tons of beach sand.
When Savoie and her partner, Peggyann Dubra, and their two small daughters returned after evacuating, they found the wall ripped apart and the house open to the elements.
Savoie’s homeowners policy was typical, with coverage for “wind damage” and “falling objects” but not flood damage. She figured her home was covered for a huge piece of boardwalk crashing into her house.
Before Hurricane Irene last year, she called her broker and was told that she was covered. But her Allstate adjuster showed up post-Sandy to say the plank that crashed through the wall was pushed by water, therefore the damage was, technically, from a flood.
Allstate officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Mike Barry of the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group, said homeowners’ insurance typically covers “falling objects.”
“Falling objects is a very broad brush but what is it mostly? It’s trees,” he said. “A different adjuster might see it differently.”
One of Savoie’s neighbors, Navin Latchman, 29, stayed put during the storm and watched the boardwalk come apart until parts of it crashed into his home.
“It took out the wall,” he said. “There were multiple pipe breaks. Then the wind came in and started throwing things all over the place.”
Nevertheless an Allstate adjuster informed him last week he wasn’t covered because the damage was caused by flood — not the hurricane.
“We’re waiting for the denial letter now,” Latchman said.
Homeowners without insurance can get emergency FEMA grants to repair everything from walls to doors to HVAC and driveways. Latchman is likely eligible, but not Savoie.
That’s because Savoie rented out the bottom floor, so FEMA deemed her home a business, even though it’s also her primary residence. All she could do was apply for a low-interest loan, which she did last week.
“How am I supposed to live in a house with no heat or hot water?” Savoie asked. “I’ve lost everything.”
(Source: NY Daily News)