Where's the Ike insurance money?

December 9, 2008 5:50:50 PM PST
First it was trouble getting insurance money, now a new problem is popping up for Hurricane Ike victims. Many have gotten insurance checks, but they still do not have access to the money to make repairs.

The insurance checks to cover storm damage are often written to the homeowner and the mortgage company holding the lien. Storm victims are finding when they go to cash the check, the mortgage holder is keeping all the money, making repairs next to impossible.

Hurricane Ike treated Mike Rhodes' house like so many others in Houston. A large tree branch slammed into the home, ripping a hole in the roof and causing a lot of damage.

"A little over $28,000," he told us.

First Rhodes had to wait two months on the insurance company to write a check for damage repairs. When the check arrived, it was written to both Rhodes and Bank of America. BOA Is the lien holder on Rhodes home.

"I got the check, I went to the bank and said I need to get all to endorse this," Rhodes explained. "They said, 'We can't endorse it, we have to send it to Arizona to the mortgage department to get them to cosign it.'"

It is not uncommon for insurance checks to require a bank endorsement, and it is not uncommon for a mortgage company to hold the money and distribute it as the work is done to the company's satisfaction. Sometimes that involves the mortgage company sending its inspectors to your home.

Rhodes says Bank of America has kept all of his repair money for more than two weeks. He says he has spent his own money to start making temporary repairs to stop any further damage.

"So far I am over $6,000 out of my hip pocket fixing my house and it has gotten to the point that I can't do any more," he admitted.

Rhodes says he just wants to know when he can get the money earmarked for the repairs.

"What do we do," he asked. "I'm looking for someone to give me an answer. I have run out of money, run out of time and run out of patience. I was cussing mad yesterday when I talked to the bank, I guarantee you I was cussing mad."

According to the Texas Department of Insurance, mortgage companies must, within 10 days after they receive insurance proceeds, tell you what their requirements are in order to have the funds released.

Once you have provided sufficient evidence to show that you have met those requirements, the mortgage company has 10 days to release the funds.

Here's something else that is very important to remember, according to the Texas Department of Insurance, your insurance company cannot make a check for a claim payable only to the mortgage company. If they do, you should refuse to accept it and demand the check be re-issued to you and your mortgage company.

What does Bank of America have to say about the delay in getting money to storm victims?

We called Bank of America several times throughout the day and have not gotten a response, but officials with the Texas Department of Insurance tell me this is something they will investigate and they urge consumers to call an investigator. The number is 1-800-252-3439.

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