Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy pummeled Bellmore-Merrick with a 10-foot storm surge that sent floodwaters surging across the community’s southern peninsulas, the Dakota Design Center, on the north side of Merrick Road, beside the Meadowbrook Parkway, remains a dormant shell, soot-covered throughout its 10,000-square-foot interior and boarded up with plywood.
Its owner, Patricia Salcedo, of Bellmore, spent 10 months battling with her insurance company over the money she needs to rebuild. When her settlement finally came, she did what she thought she was supposed to do, and was advised to do by accountants and attorneys: She signed the check over to her mortgage company, with the understanding that it would write her a new check to rebuild.
In Salcedo’s case, however, her mortgage company, Vfc Partners in Waco, Texas, an affiliate of the FirstCity Financial Corporation, applied her settlement to the principal balance of her mortgage, leaving her without funds to rebuild her design showroom, she said. Capital One, which previously held Salcedo’s mortgage, sold it to Vfc in Sandy’s wake, she said.
Insurance settlement checks for more than $20,000 are typically made out to both the home or business owner and the mortgage company, and both must endorse them before funds can be disbursed to contractors doing repairs. Many mortgage companies want to oversee reconstruction, to ensure that their investments in homes and businesses are protected. A mortgage company typically releases funds in installments as work is completed, to prevent a home or business owner from taking the money and not doing the repairs, or doing a poor repair job, leaving the mortgage company with a bad investment that cannot be sold.
Three months ago, Salcedo began receiving calls from Vfc, asking whether her insurance settlement had come through. At first she was leery of the calls. “I thought it was a fraudulent thing,” she said.