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Conflict & Tragedy

Storm recovery horror: Victims' homes robbed, insurance companies deny claims

Many residents hit hard by Superstorm Sandy are still limping along the road to recovery, with some shameful obstacles marring the way.

While the gas rationing ban has been lifted in both New York and New Jersey, and power restored to about 90 percent of homes, huge electric bills, robberies and insurance claims are plaguing folks in some the storm-stricken areas.

After being in the dark for weeks, Long Island residents are now complaining about the huge utility bills they are receiving from LIPA, their energy provider. Instead of giving storm victims a credit for the month of incompetence meted out, the Long Island Power Authority has slapped customers with the full month's bill. (Read more atCNN.com).

In the Breezy Point section of Queens, homes still without power were burglarized over the Thanksgiving holidays. One of the owners of those homes, Robert Bainsbridge, told local TV CBS 2 that the thieves hit the same day his power was restored, which was Saturday. To add to the suffering, insurance companies are now stonewalling claims, refusing to pay.

New York homeowners are complaining of their claims for storm damages being denied by insurance companies using the misleading fine print that most people avoid because they do not understand it. Tom Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that his numerous attempts to collect money for repair to his home were unsuccessful.

Insurance companies are using “delay, deny and defend” tactics to avoid payouts, with many saying the claimants were not insured for flood, which is the primary cause of most home owners damage. Sullivan said he thought he was insured for every disaster contingency when he signed on the dotted line, but on close inspection of his policy, the CNN correspondent realized that the dubious rules laid in the legal jargon buried in the policies. Sullivan admitted he didn’t understand what some of the phrases meant.

Are insurance companies purposefully misleading policy holders with the heavy wording of said policies? Robert Hartwig, speaking on behalf of those companies refutes such accusations, saying policies were clear on what they covered-- but homeowners do not share his sentiment.

Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent of Financial Services, and New York’s top banking regulator whose job it is to keep a regulatory eye on things like this, says he is investigating the claims denied by insurance companies. Known as the "rogue regulator," Lawsky has reportedly pissed of Wall Street, the feds, the Treasury and even the city of London.

Let’s hope he can get to the bottom of these shifty practices by insurances companies, who are trying every trick in the book to avoid helping storm victims who desperately need that assistance now more than ever.

If you would like to donate or volunteer in NYC or NJ, click links below.

worldcares.org or RSVP to mbascome@worldcares.org.

www.occupysandy.com.

www.redhookvolunteers.org/confirm

For federal help, go to FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency.