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Richard, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 55294
Experience:  32 years of experience as lawyer in Texas. I'm also a Real Estate developer.
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My home was extremely damaged in Hurricane Sandy. I have relocated

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My home was extremely damaged in Hurricane Sandy. I have relocated here to Port St. Lucie awaiting my insurance claim to be processed. I have received an initial settlement for $34,864.39, of which $15,000.00 was spent on mold remediation. However when Serv-Pro was doing the clean up they found additional damage. I filed a supplemental claim and just found out they want to settle that claim for an additional $46,100.00 without a contractor's estimate (I am having a hard time finding a contractor). My question is I am insured for $125,000.00 for property damaged and I owe a little over $100,00.00 on my mortgage. Can I just take the money they have given me and pay most of my mortgage and just walk away from the damaged property. My mortgage and taxes are paid to date but I would not be able to come up with the difference of the mortgage balance. Can you help me. The damaged property is located in Keansburg NJ.
Welcome! My goal is to do my very best to understand your situation and to provide a full and complete answer for you.

Good morning. One, I would not necessarily settle for the $46,100 the insurance company has offered. Insurance companies tend to low-ball these offers and if you contest this, it's likely they will offer you more money than their initial offer on this. Why is that? Because the insurance company doesn't simply get the unilateral right to arbitrarily establish the settlement amount because they are not exactly an unbiased party. Write the insurance company a certified, return receipt requested letter explaining that you don't consider this to be a fair and reasonable settlement and demand that they agree to a higher amount within a short specified period of time or you will have no choice but to file a claim against them. Be sure to mention you intend to file this claim as not only a breach of contract claim, but also as a failure to reasonably settle, which will entitle you not only to actual damages, but an additional amount equal to multiple times your actual damages as punitive damages. This is typically all you need do, because insurance companies want to avoid punitive damages and the bad publicity that comes with failing to settle. Two, no matter what settlement amount upon which you ultimately settle, this is to compensate you for your damages. You are under no legal obligation to spend the money on reconstruction. You can apply all the proceeds to your mortgage and then pay out the balance over time.

Thank you so much for allowing me to help you with your questions. I have done my best to provide information which will be helpful to you. If I have not fully addressed your questions or if you have any follow up questions, or if I have misinterpreted your questions in any way, please do not rate me yet, but simply ask a follow up question without rating so I can provide you with a fully satisfactory answer. If I have fully answered your question(s) to your satisfaction, I would appreciate you rating my service with 3, 4, or 5 faces/stars so I can receive credit for helping you today. I thank you in advance for taking the time to provide me a positive rating!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

If I understand you correctly, you are advising me to asked for a higher settlement even though I don't have a contractor's estimate. Should I hire an attorney?

Thanks for following up. Yes, that's what I would do. You have nothing to lose...they're not going to go down in their estimate and in my experience they almost always agree to a higher amount when pressed for one. I would not hire an attorney at this point as you don't want to spend additional settlement dollars on attorneys' fees, but, rather, I would reference in your letter you have consulted an attorney and that if they don't agree to a higher settlement, you will engage the attorney to pursue the suit. Also be reminded that you should be covered for the room and board cost of living elsewhere and storage and moving costs while you are displaced, so if you have not included those in your settlement, you need to demand those be included in your settlement.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your advice. I can not claim my housing and moving expenses as they are not covered in the Flood insurance policy and my homeowners insurance denied any claims because the damage was caused by flood.

You're's been my pleasure to help. If you don't mind, I would appreciate you letting me know the outcome of this. Thanks and have a great day!
Richard and 5 other Real Estate Law Specialists are ready to help you
Thanks so much for the positive rating and the generous bonus! I appreciate your kindness and the opportunity to serve you! If I can be of assistance to you in the future, just look me up and I will be happy to help! For easy access, my bookmark is:
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I have one more question, I received a call from the Insurance company telling me that they were sending the $46,000.00 check to settle the account by UPS, however I'm not sure I should forward it to my mortgage company because it might seem that I agree to settle for this additional amount which I am not happy with. What should I do?

Thanks for your follow up. I would contact the insurance company and let them know you are not going to accept this check because you don't agree with the settlement. You really don't want to accept/sign any check until you have agreed upon the amount. So, send it back with a letter demanding the higher settlement amount.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Could I ask them to just pay off my mortgage, since I'm insured for more than I owe?

Yes, you can do so.
Richard and 5 other Real Estate Law Specialists are ready to help you
Thank you! Have a great day!

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