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Isabel Q&A with The Sun's Andrew A. Green

If you receive unsatisfactory responses from federal or stateofficials about your claim, please feel free to e-mail Green atandy.green@baltsun.com.

Charles H. Willard, Stevensville: I have a gazebo, wharf area and bulkheadthat were destroyed by the hurricane. I have flood insurance but was toldthat there is no coverage for these items and that I couldn't purchase anytype of coverage for these types of things. Is this correct?

Green: Unfortunately, the policy does not cover structures like gazebos andpiers, and private insurance policies don't either. The U.S. Senate appearslikely to ask for a re-evaluation of the policy, however, so those thingsmay be covered in the future.

Dot Hardy, Dorchester: We were victims of Isabel in Dorchester County. Wehave flood insurance and received depreciated compensation checks. Myquestion: Because the check was over $20,000, our mortgage company's namewas third party and is holding funds in escrow until an inspector comes tosee final work completed. In the meantime, we have had to use our homeequity money to fund all projects. I feel they thought I was not going touse the funds to rebuild, and I don't believe this was fair. It's been long,hard months of work and labor and hardship for us having to travel fromBaltimore to Cambridge. Is this fair?

Green: Whether it's fair or not, many people have experienced similarproblems with their mortgage holders. You might try calling the MarylandInsurance Administration, 410-468-2000, to see if they can help persuadethe bank to release more money up front.

Cathy Howell, Edgewater: We're demolishing our house and rebuilding. Ihave heard that there are loans that are not income-related. Are theserestricted only to loans that are above 85 percent value of the new house?Also, I'm one of many who is not happy with insurance but haven't submittedanything to the commissioner. What is the easiest way to submit?

Green: Part of the legislation the state just passed, House Bill 3, or HB 3,creates a partnership with banks to provide the non-income restricted loansyou mention. The primary purpose, as you suggest, is for loans that areabove the banks' normal limit. However, another part of the program allowsthe state to subsidize the interest on those loans for a period of fiveyears. For more information, call: 1-866-227-2497, Maryland's Department ofHousing and Community Development.

Linda D., Baltimore: If we have already settled for our flood insurancepayment, should we find out what software was used by the adjuster tocalculate our losses? How do we know what software should have been used?

Green: Officials with the National Flood Insurance Program will review yourclaim regardless of what software was used. NFIP officials have said thatif the software, or anything else, resulted in a low-ball settlement, theywill adjust your claim. Call them at 1-800-427-4661.

Harry Curland, Annapolis: I have already signed a "proof of loss" andreceived payment. Can I still appeal for higher compensation? Whatdocumentation is necessary? What is the procedure to appeal?

Green: Yes, you can still appeal, though the NFIP is still working out theprocess. NFIP is at 1-800-427-4661.

Alice Baker, Parkville: Does HB 3 make any provision for seniors whoseproperty is free and clear but do not have the means to rebuild. I asked[Baltimore County] Executive [James T.] Smith Jr.'s aide but did not get an answer. Why can't these seniorsget these loans and pay only interest until property is disposed of? Idon't think reverse mortgages, like [Del.] Maggie L. McIntosh spoke of is the answer.

Green: HB 3 does allow you to take out the loans and pay only the interestuntil the property is sold or transferred. Depending on your income, youmay not have to pay interest at all. Call 1-866-227-2497 for information.

Baltimoresun.com reader from Miller's Island: If my house is insured for$105,000 and insurance only paid $30,000 for repairs, now since the houseis considered to have greater than 50 percent damage and needs to bereplaced per Baltimore County Code, will the flood insurance make up thedifference?

Green: Not automatically. You need to contact the NFIP and ask them tore-examine your claim. That number again is 1-800-427-4661.

Norma Norris, Grasonville: The flood insurance adjuster came up with afigure of $34,000 to repair our waterfront home. This turned out to beabout half of what it cost to do the repairs. We have had to get a homeequity loan to make up the difference, but this is another financial burdenon us. What recourse do we have now to try and increase the payment to us?

Green: Again, try contacting the NFIP, 1-800-427-4661.

Baltimoresun.com reader in Edgemere: Why has the Maryland InsuranceCommission taken so long to work with insurance claims appeals that aresent to them? After numerous calls about my claim, no one from the state has called me back. How long is this supposed to take? If our tax dollars are paying for this, maybe their pay should equal their output, which is zero.

Green: The Maryland Insurance Administration said recently that it is nowforwarding new complaints to the NFIP on a weekly basis. However, if youdon't want to wait for them -- or don't feel comfortable leaving your caseup to them -- you can call the NFIP directly, 1-800-427-4661.

Harry Wiseman, Middle River: When my claim was adjusted, I was told that Iwould only receive payment for damage from the ground to the water lineinside my house (about 3 feet of water was in my house). As a result, Ireceived a payment that could not possibly allow me to rebuild.Ultimately, that forced me to sell my house "as-is." This is somethingthat I did not want to do.

I am an 88-year-old man and I lived in MiddleRiver for over 30 years. I did not have the money to supplement theinsurance payment to rebuild. I feel that the money I received did notreflect my actual damages caused by the flood. Would it be worth it for meto file an appeal? If so, how do I go about doing that? Or is it toolate?

Green: It is not too late, and it sounds like the NFIP will look at whetherthings policyholders were told was excluded from the policy should havebeen included. You can call the NFIP at 1-800-427-4661.

Baltimoresun.com reader in Baltimore: If you missed the deadline to file for assistance from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development for the free grant to (in my case) mitigate against future damages, what options are available?

Green: If you have flood insurance, you may qualify for "Increased Cost ofCompliance" (ICC) coverage, through which you can get up to $30,000 tomitigate against future damages. Try calling the NFIP at 1-800-427-4661. Iwould also check with the state to see if they can still help you. Theirnumber is 1-866-227-2497, the state's department of housing and communitydevelopment.

Jim M., Earlville, Cecil County: We were damaged and need to demolish andrebuild [an] elevated home -- yet the health department says we have to stayat our current 900 square feet. What flexibility/options do we have? We'renot interested in $100,000-$150,000 out of pocket if we end up with the same tinycottage.

Green: Frankly, you may be out of luck. In some cases, health departmentslimit the size of waterfront homes to avoid overloading septic systems.

Ginny Zawodny, Miller's Island: My insurance adjuster contacted a firm totear out and remove mold for 722 square feet. The total cost of the jobwas $16,896. I was told by several contractors and Baltimore County that Iwas grossly overcharged for this job. My claim of $44,000 now becomes$27,104. This is a joke! I already signed and accepted my claim. What canI do about this?

Green: Call the NFIP (1-800-427-4661) and explain the situation. You canalso call the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation tocomplain about the charge. Their number is 410-230-6220.

Sharon Harris, Baltimore: Will additional funds be allowed other than theminimum $5,000 for repairs received from FEMA. I have rot infestation thatcame with Isabel and I am in desperate need of more funds to rebuild.

Green: If you didn't have flood insurance, HB 3 might help. Try calling1-866-227-2497, the state's department of housing and communitydevelopment.

Cindy Raudabaugh, Baltimore: How do I start the process of ICC and seeingif there is any way I can have financial assistance in raising my houseafter Isabel.

Green: ICC claims are part of the flood insurance system. Call the NFIP at1-800-427-4661.

S. Fitz, Pasadena: The brick veneer on my house started cracking up afterthe flood. The insurance adjuster and an engineer say it was pre-existing. Theyare wrong. Is there any recourse besides suing them in court? Is the Maryland loan money available to pay the existing mortgage on my destroyed house?

Green: Call the NFIP (1-800-427-4661) about the brick. And, yes, theMaryland loan money can be used to replace your existing mortgage and rollall your debt together.

Lynn Vincent, Middle River: What are the eligible income levels for the HB3? I have not been able to find if there is a maximum limit and if it isgross or adjusted gross income.

Green: It depends on the size of your household. For one person, themaximum limit is $64,050. For eight, $120,780. For details, call1-866-227-2497, the state's housing and community development department.

Catherine Rhea, White Marsh: My house was destroyed by Isabel. We aregetting a modular for $159,000. Wells Fargo, my mortgage company, has$65,869 of my insurance money. My builder wants $44,440 up front. WellsFargo will only give a third of the insurance money to them. I am waitingfor SBA to reply. Maybe House Bill 3 will help. I am on pins and needleswaiting. Wells Fargo asked me to fax three more papers the other day. Ijust cried. Does everyone require blood. How much paper work, phone calls,faxing, waiting, crying, etc. is needed to finally go home?

Green: You're not alone. Nearly everyone I talk to is about to snap fromthe hurdles they've had to go through, and the problem with the mortgagecompany is a common one. The NFIP (1-800-427-4661) may be able to mediate.

Linda Sowers, Middle River: Is there any recourse for flood victims whohave already received and signed off on insurance settlements that theyfeel were not adequate?

Green: Yes. Call the NFIP, 1-800-427-4661.

Gary Schoenemann, Baltimore: Does this new program set up by House Bill 3 cover commercial properties as well as residential ones?

Green: House Bill 3 only covers residential properties. If you have floodinsurance, you might want to try reopening your claim with the NFIP,1-800-427-4661.

David Hash, Bowley's Quarters: We were wiped out by Isabel. We had no floodinsurance, because my original lender's surveyor said we were not in theA10 flood zone. Seventeen years later, our new Elevation Certificate clearly showswe were well below the A10 elevation. Do I have a case against my lenderand/or the lender's surveyor?

Green: You might. I suggest you contact a lawyer.

Baltimoresun.com reader in Edgemere: What is going to be done to make upthe difference of the insurance settlements and the cost to rebuild? Idon't want a loan I need to repay, just the total of my flood insurancepolicy since my house has to be torn down.

Green: Call the NFIP, 1-800-427-4661, and ask them to reopen your claim.

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