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A.G. Schneiderman Announces Resources To Aid Homeowners And Consumers Impacted By Buffalo Area Snow Storm

Regional Housing Counseling And Legal Services Providers Under The Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) To Help Residents Deal With Insurance Companies And Mortgage Providers During Recovery Effort

Schneiderman Calls On Banks, Mortgage Providers, And Utility Companies To Suspend Late Fees Following Temporary Suspension Of Postal Service During Storm

BUFFALO – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today met with local leaders in Buffalo and announced that he is making a network of housing counselors and legal services providers available to help area residents resolve issues with insurance companies and mortgage providers following extensive home damage from record snowfall. The Home Owner Protection Program and its network of lawyers and housing counselors will be available to help consumers resolve outstanding insurance claims, address contractor issues, and navigate other storm related problems that could impact homeownership. 

Attorney General Schneiderman also announced that he is calling on banks, mortgage providers, and utility companies to suspend late fees following the temporary suspension of the U.S. Postal Service. Mail delivery was suspended for several days, creating potential for a backlog in delivering mail, including key correspondence like utility bills, credit card statements, and other bills. The late payment of bills could result in fees and harm to consumers’ credit ratings.

“New Yorkers pull together during difficult times, and that is why our team of lawyers and housing counselors are ready to help Western New Yorkers impacted by this severe snowstorm,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Many families have been hit hard enough by the weather, and that is why we want to make additional resources available to homeowners and consumers in need.”

In addition to offering the services of the HOPP network, Attorney General Schneiderman also announced that he has created an “Escalations Unit” within his Buffalo Regional Office. This unit will engage directly with an insurance provider or lender on behalf of a consumer who is having problems with a mortgage lender or insurance provider if referred by one of the HOPP organizations. The program is modeled after the OAG program which the Attorney General launched following Superstorm Sandy to assist homeowners in New York City and Long Island. 

The 10 county region affected by the record snow storm will have access to 6 legal service organizations and 8 housing counseling agencies. They include:

Belmont Housing Resources for WNY, Inc.
Buffalo Urban League, Inc.
Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Rochester, Inc.
Friends of the North Country, Inc.
Home HeadQuarters, Inc.
Housing Assistance Program of Essex County, Inc.
Legal Aid Society of Mid NY
Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Inc.
Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.
Legal Services of Central NY
The Legal Project
UNHS NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center
Western New York Law Center, Inc.
West Side Neighborhood Housing Services

The Empire Justice Center, a state-wide non-profit who assists the Attorney General’s office in administering the HOPP program, will also be providing training and technical assistance to HOPP grantees on insurance claim advocacy during this initiative. 

Attorney General Schneiderman was joined today at a press conference in Buffalo by U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr., Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Senator Tim Kennedy, and Joe Kelemen, Executive Director of the Western New York Law Center.

“There are undoubtedly many people in need who will be able to take advantage of government resources,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. “At same time however, based on the experiences of our Office in the past, there may be some who attempt to take advantage of these programs for private gain. This office stands ready to ensure that any money will only go to those who it is intended for and efforts to steal from these funds will be prosecuted.”

“When the storm disrupted mail and other business for a number of days last week, residents were left facing a ticking clock as bills came due and late fees loomed,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “Families have a friend in Attorney General Schneiderman, who is working to protect them from unreasonable financial penalties incurred by the storm. His assistance is helping homeowners and families across Erie County.”

“The recent snowstorm demonstrated the very best that Buffalo and Western New York has to offer, with neighbors helping neighbors through an historic storm,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. “While most people extended a helping hand, I’m glad Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been fighting would-be price gougers and is making housing counselors available to those still coping with problems following the storm.”

“I am proud to stand with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today to ensure we’re making resources available to the people of Buffalo and Western New York following the recent snow storm,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “The Attorney General’s Home Owner Protection Program’s housing counselors will be of tremendous help to those with questions on home repairs and filing insurance claims, and are exactly what we need to make sure that property owners know they are not alone in navigating this process.”

“We are proud to stand with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to assist Western New Yorkers with housing related issues following the historic snowfall that blanketed the region,” said Joe Kelemen, Executive Director of the Western New York Law Center. “Families recovering from a natural disaster deserve the support they need in dealing with insurance claims and other recovery efforts, and we are happy to help our neighbors with this effort.”

The Homeowner Protection Program, launched by Attorney General Schneiderman in 2012, is a network of more than 85 organizations across New York State that assists homeowners who are struggling to avoid foreclosure. The HOPP program can be reached 24 hours a day at 1-855-HOME-456 or online at www.AGHomeHelp.com. Since the launch, the HOPP program has assisted more than 34,000 families with high quality foreclosure prevention services which are free of charge to all New York families.

Since the start of the storm, Attorney General Schneiderman’s office has received at least 60 complaints of price gouging in the wake of the storm and sent at least 39 cease and desist letters. All complaints remain under investigation. Categories of complaints include price gouging for: 

  • Snow removal from roof:  17
  • Snow removal from driveway/plowing: 17
  • Groceries: 12
  • Towing: 12
  • Gas: 1
  • Equipment rental: 1

The Attorney General urges the public to report potential occurrences of price gouging by calling 800-771-7755 or by logging on to the office's website at www.ag.ny.gov.