Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg, a Democrat from Merrick, introduced two bills on March 21 that seek to force insurance companies and banks in the county to speed up their payments of insurance claims to victims of Hurricane Sandy. But the Legislature’s Republican caucus, which holds a one-vote majority, is likely to oppose the bills, on the basis that the county lacks jurisdiction to regulate the claim payouts of insurers and banks.
Eight Democrats in the Legislature co-sponsored the bills, giving them unanimous support among the nine-member Democratic caucus. But the 10-member Republican caucus — which includes Democrat Denise Ford, of Long Beach — is not onboard.
“There are serious questions of jurisdiction,” said Frank Moroney, spokesman for Norma Gonsalves, a Republican from East Meadow who is the Legislature’s presiding officer. “There are state and federal laws that pre-empt.”
Moroney said that while he was sure that some insurers and banks have treated their customers unfairly as they have struggled to recoup their losses and rebuild, the Republican caucus believes that the best course of action is to work with state and federal authorities to help Nassau homeowners.
Ford said she agrees that insurers and banks are not paying out claims in a timely manner, but she thinks this falls within the state’s jurisdiction, not the county’s. “I commend Legislator Denenberg for working on this,” she said, “but I think we need to work with [the state], who can make these changes.”
Five months after the storm, many residents continue to battle with their insurance companies and adjusters, arguing that the damage to their homes is being undervalued. Many are still waiting for their banks to sign off on reimbursement checks.
An insurer typically issues checks jointly to a homeowner and his or her mortgage bank or servicer after the settlement of a large insurance claim. That means the bank needs to endorse the check before the homeowner may access the funds. Banks may also require proof that repairs have been made before they endorse checks.