Hurricane Ida pummeled Louisiana with 150 mph category 4 winds when it made landfall in Port Fourchon on August 29, 2021, practically wiping out the town of Grand Isle.
According to a report from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Ida’s storm surge peaked at 14 feet above ground on the Mississippi River’s east bank and up to 12 feet above dry land on the west bank of the river, sweeping through with catastrophic flooding across Jefferson, Lafourche, and Plaquemines parishes.
Ida is recorded as the second-most damaging hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In total, it is estimated she caused more than $75 billion in damages in the United States.
Unfortunately, residents of the Metairie Towers condominium complex in Jefferson Parish are just now feeling some financial relief after more than a year since Ida paid a visit to the building, wreaking havoc in damages and leaving residents displaced.
How the $3 Million Loan is Helping the Residents of Metairie Towers
The Metairie Towers Condo Association has finally gotten a $3 million loan approved, which will be a start to removing ruined materials from the damaged building, such as asbestos abatement, which will take four to five months to complete.
Unfortunately, insurers initially estimated the Towers were the brunt of $19 million worth of damage caused by Hurricane Ida last year, which resulted in 250 residents vacating the building and 33 condo units now up for sale. Despite condo owners are still paying homeowner’s association fees to cover:
- Electric bills
- General contractor
- Security guards
- Increased insurance premiums
These fees have also made it possible to secure the $3 million loan, which will also go toward paying for:
- Damage to the roof
- Damage from more flooding caused by problems with the water system during an attempt to dehumidify the building
As for the current status of Metairie Towers residents, they are still waiting for $9 million out of the initial insurance policy, which is taking a hit on their budget. It is reported the insurers have agreed to pay the residents an additional $3 million, but it is unsure when that is actually going to happen.
How New Louisiana Laws Will Help Those Insured
Because of the hundreds of thousands of claims filed against insurers after the damage and devastation Louisiana residents experienced after Hurricanes Laura, Zeta, and Ida, the state’s legislature recently passed several laws in July 2022 to further protect insurance customers, like those residents of the Metairie Towers.
According to Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, the plan is to increase the minimum capital and surplus requirements for insurers to get licensed to write certain property insurance policies. The multiple hurricanes last year, one after another, led to insurers filing for bankruptcies and leaving the insured high and dry.
This new law removes the requirement for an emergency declaration, or an ordered evacuation in certain parishes, to be considered for coverage. The act now considers each insured’s circumstances to ensure coverage in unique cases.
This is because, during this wave of hurricanes, some parishes were ordered to evacuate the storms, while others were told to get out of harm’s way, but evacuation was not mandated. Some insurances voluntarily waived the required evacuation order to pay the evacuation expenses, but others did not, which is why Act 434 now exists to activate coverage with or without any form of evacuation issued by a local official.
Senate Bill 412, now Act 754, was approved to generate an Insurance Incentive Program. This has financial incentives built into the program to appeal to more insurance companies who may do business in Louisiana, which will, in turn, build up the diversity and competition within the insurance market.
Once Senate Bill 198, Act 263 aims to create a new three-adjuster rule requiring insurance companies to consistently give updates on claims and provide a primary contact person when and if a third adjuster was assigned during a catastrophe.
This simply means if an insured resident of Louisiana is on their third adjuster after six months, the insurance company needs to give that resident one single point of contact who is well-versed on the claim and experienced in the claim process, which includes updated status reports.
This law revolves around the catastrophic claims process disclosure form, in that insurance companies are required to give specific disclosures in the policy’s explanation of benefits, which also includes:
- An explanation of how the insurer will communicate
- An explanation of the supplemental claim process
- An explanation of how the calculations are made
- A description of cash valuation versus replacement cost valuation
- A description of the items necessary to document a claim
- How to communicate (or complain) to the insurance department
This new legislative act was passed to demand residential and auto insurance companies file a catastrophic response plan with the state’s Department of Insurance. This will ensure companies are prepped for the flood of claims that are a result of highly damaging hurricanes. If they do not, the Commission of Insurance can take regulatory action against those companies.
The plans must include:
- Emergency contact info
- Alternative work site options
- Steps for processing claims that will need to be approved by state officials
Act 554 formed the Louisiana Fortify Homes Program. Under the Department of Insurance, this program gives homeowners the opportunity to apply for grants (not including permits) that will aid in retrofitting their home’s roof and room layouts to meet higher standards.
Homeowners are eligible for the program if they:
- Pay permits
- Pay inspections
- Pay other related fees
How Homeowners Insurance Protects Residents of Louisiana
Although delayed payment from homeowners insurance can be financially painful, insurance covers this single most expensive investment Louisiana residents will make, so it is essential to protect the home’s structure and property.
If policyholders are dissatisfied with a claim, a complaint form can be submitted online to the Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDI).