A.G. Schneiderman Launches Post-Sandy Insurance Outreach And Advocacy Program To Assist Struggling Homeowners
Schneiderman: Aftermath Of Sandy Threatens To Increase Foreclosures And This Initiative Will Help New Yorkers Keep Their Homes
A.G. Awards Over $730,000 To 18 Organizations Providing Services To Sandy Victims In NYC And Long Island
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the creation of an initiative to assist homeowners who are struggling to maintain and repair their homes in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. In response to consumer complaints, the program will address issues related to the collection of insurance claims and other disaster-related benefits in light of the impact these issues are having on homeownership and foreclosure prevention.
The program will provide $732,000 to 18 organizations currently funded under Attorney General Schneiderman’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP). These organizations are assisting consumers with a range of home-retention issues as a result of Sandy, including improper denials of insurance claims, long delays collecting benefits, and insurance payments that are dramatically less than the homeowners expect under existing policies. The Attorney General will also make staff available to directly intervene with insurance companies and other Sandy-related benefit providers at the request of housing counselors and legal service providers
“New Yorkers have already suffered enough as a result of Sandy – there is no excuse for unnecessary delays or denials for homeowners who are fighting to rebuild their lives following this storm. This initiative will ensure that homeowners have a champion to help them stand up to the powerful interests that are standing in the way of real relief,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office will assist homeowners who need help claiming the benefits to which they are legally entitled.”
Attorney General Schneiderman’s initiative will direct funds to HOPP organizations that are already providing services to storm victims and who are active in the five most impacted counties: Queens, Kings, Richmond, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Seven HOPP organizations will provide services on Long Island in addition to ten organizations that will provide services in New York City.
HOPP grantees in these regions have reported a significant influx of clients as a direct result of Sandy.
“Hundreds of homeowners have sought our help with Sandy problems so far, and almost all of them are fighting insurance denials, underpayments or delays,” said Margaret Becker, Co-Director of the Homeowner Defense Project at Staten Island Legal Services. “They need fair insurance settlements to be able to repair, rebuild and move home. We are so grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for creating this initiative, without which, mortgage defaults and foreclosures will be inevitable.”
Homeowners who need assistance will be able to call a toll-free hotline number that will connect them with a housing counselor or legal services provider funded through the Attorney General’s Office. The hotline telephone number is 1-855-HOME-456. In addition, advocates will be proactively reaching out to affected communities to ensure homeowners are aware of the Attorney General’s program.
Designated staff from the Attorney General’s office will be available to assist advocates in their negotiations with insurance companies and other disaster relief benefit providers. The “escalation” program is modeled after a successful program the Attorney General oversees to help advocates in their negotiations with banks on behalf of consumers who are at risk of foreclosure.
“Sandy hit hardest in communities that were already devastated by the foreclosure crisis,” said Christie Peale, Executive Director of the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, a non-profit that will assist the Attorney General in administering the initiative. “The overlay of insurance problems could have disastrous consequences on our collective effort to stabilize those communities. We are extremely grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for creating this consumer advocacy initiative at a time when homeowners are not sure where to turn for help.”
This program will be funded through dollars obtained by Attorney General Schneiderman as a result of the National Mortgage Servicing Settlement that was announced in February between the five largest mortgage servicing banks, 49 states, and the federal government over foreclosure abuses.
Homeowners in need of assistance should contact 1-855-HOME-456.