GILL LEGISLATION TO PROTECT HOMEOWNERS DURING INSURANCE CLAIMS PROCESS CLEARS COMMERCE COMMITTEE

Measures Address Problems Uncovered In Sandy’s Aftermath

TRENTON – Two bills sponsored by Senate Commerce Committee Chair Nia H. Gill to help improve the homeowners insurance claims process for New Jersey residents by addressing problems encountered by consumers in the aftermath of Sandy were approved today by the committee.

“Homeowners who were already dealing with the stress of major property damage, and in many cases absolute devastation, in the aftermath of Sandy encountered additional problems when they attempted to recoup their losses through the insurance claims process,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “In some instances, homeowners learned their policy did not include flood insurance and, therefore, could not receive compensation from their insurer. In other instances, homeowners who sought public adjusters to help them navigate the insurance claims process were asked to pay exorbitant prices for the service. We have to make sure these kinds of issues do not occur again and that homeowners are safeguarded against unnecessary property or monetary loss going forward.”

In the aftermath of Sandy, many impacted New Jersey residents have been denied claims made to their insurance company because their policy did not cover certain events. Some residents believed they had been paying for flood insurance only to find out after Sandy devastated their home that they, in fact, never had flood insurance. In addition, after the storm some residents who sought public adjusters to help with the claims process said they were asked to pay hefty fees for the service, some up to five times the fee typically charged, according to information from the state Department of Banking and Insurance. The senator noted that her bills seek to address both problems and ensure that New Jersey residents are treated fairly during the insurance claims process.

The first bill (S-2502) would require insurance companies to make policies more clear for policy holders by requiring a one-page summary of the policy, including notable coverages and exclusions under the policy, in the informational brochure currently provided to consumers. The one page summary is intended to bring homeowners’ attention to important aspects of their policy related to natural disasters, such as hurricane deductibles and flood insurance.

The second bill (S-2472) would cap the fees public adjusters are allowed to charge. After Sandy, the state Department of Banking and Insurance received complaints that some adjusters – which are hired by the policy holder to advocate on their behalf and to ease the claims process – were charging a fee of up to 50% of the homeowner’s insurance claim settlement. The average fee nationally ranges from 10 percent to 15 percent. The bill would cap allowable fees at 12.5 percent of the gross settlement. With this measure, New Jersey would join a number of other states, including New York, that cap public adjuster fees.

“It important that homeowners understand their policy coverage limits before a natural disaster occurs, and that if they decide to hire an adjuster to help with the claims process after a storm they are not charged unreasonable fees for the service,” said Senator Gill. “These are commonsense reforms that will address both matters. Ultimately, they will ensure consumers are better informed and protected in the event they incur damage to their property and must file an insurance claim in the future.”

S-2502 was approved by a vote of 6-0; S-2472 was approved by a vote of 5-0-1. Both bills now head to the full Senate for a vote.

"The governor still has to come to bat."
—Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, on Atlantic City.