Huntington residents concerned about rebuilding their homes after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy turned out for a town forum Thursday night where they heard from a variety of experts.
A New Orleans attorney with plenty of expertise in hurricane damage warned them about settling too easily or naively with insurance companies, while a contractors' nonprofit organization discussed repairs, bankers talked about financing, and the town building department reviewed permit issues.
Attorney John W. Houghtaling II, who lived in Huntington before the family moved to New Orleans when he was 11, reviewed New York State laws on deadlines imposed on insurance companies, paperwork and the need for homeowners to push for settlements they believe they're entitled to.
He emphasized the legal responsibility of insurance companies to pay homeowners according to a legal schedule and said that they are required to pay out certain amounts of money even if the homeowner insists on more. And homeowners were warned not to sign releases if they weren't satisfied with the offer. And, playing off slogans, he warned that while agencies liked to portray themselves as good neighbors, keeping customers in their good hands, adjusters and insurers are "misinforming people and telling people things that just aren't true, " he said.
Homeowners need to pay attention to whether damage is attributed to wind or flooding because that affects who pays for it. "You're going to be told a lot that isn't true," he said. "The chronology of damage is very important," he said.
His firm, Gauthier, Houghtaling & Williams, has filed class action and other suits stemming from the hurricanes that clobbered New Orleans in recent years, handling thousands of claims by businesses and homeowners. As managing partner, he said his firm never turns away homeowners in need of legal assistance.
John Hogan, president of the local chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, said he'd heard complaints from different sides, from stalled decisions on repairs to homeowners trying to get insurance to cover unrelated repairs.
The forum included representatives of LongIsland Builders Institute; Gold Coast Bank; the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, East Northport and Melville Chambers of Commerce and the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency.