Insurers have been instructed by the governor and financial services superintendent of New York State to accept homeowners’ documentation of losses, including photos and video, negating the typical requirement for an on-site inspection before claims can be processed.
New York State also imposed a 30-day moratorium on cancelling or terminating homeowners’ and small business owners’ insurance policies for any reason, including non-payment of premiums, in areas affected by the storm. The instructions were issued so that residents can discard debris before a second tropical storm hits the area on Wednesday.
“Health and safety must come first. If debris is creating unsafe conditions, people must be able to clear it away without hurting their right to make an insurance claim,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “We are acting to preserve homeowners’ insurance rights when much is beyond their control. They have suffered enough and should not be hurt further by red tape or technicalities.”
Areas covered by the directives include New York City and Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland and Orange counties. The moratorium is set for 30 days, but could be extended as necessary.
“If debris is dangerous, homeowners should carefully document their losses and then dispose of the debris,” said Benjamin Lawsky, financial services superintendent. “Taking photos and videos and even keeping samples of damaged materials is a good idea. We will be vigilant in protecting homeowners who have already suffered so much.”
The superintendent has the authority to modify or suspend provisions in any area of New York State where the governor has declared a state of emergency, according to the Insurance Law. Previously, the Governor had announced that hurricane deductibles, which can amount to tens of thousands of dollars, would not be applied to most downstate homeowners’ insurance policies because Sandy did not have sustained hurricane force winds when it hit New York. Most insurers have agreed not to apply these deductibles.
If debris must be removed before a claims adjuster arrives, homeowners are instructed to:
1. Inventory all damaged items
2. Take individual color photos of the damaged property, targeting any high ticket items. If possible, videotape the damage items
3. Have the camera set to record the date / time
4. If possible, take samples or swatches of carpeting, wallpaper, furniture upholstery, window treatments, and other items where quality will be a claims factor.
5. The inventory should reflect the corresponding picture for validation.
6. Keep this information in a secured location to share when the adjuster arrives.
This process applies to all contents that are damaged and will be claimed.
Flood insurance policies are covered by Federal Emergency Management Administration regulations, and FEMA is expected to issue guidance on this issue. Homeowners with both homeowner’s and flood insurance should follow FEMA rules to preserve their claims under flood insurance.
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