Damaged vacation homes not eligible for FEMA grants

Damaged vacation homes not eligible for FEMA grants

Damaged vacation homes not eligible for FEMA grants

Many Rockaway summer home owners didn’t have flood insurance; landlords could be eligible for low-interest loans

By Clare Trapasso / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Sunday, November 18, 2012, 6:00 AM

Jeff Bachner/for New York Daily News

Chris Yorke’s flood-damaged Breezy Point vacation home does not qualify for FEMA assistance because it it not his primary residence.

Chris Yorke’s flood-damaged Breezy Point vacation home does not qualify for FEMA assistance because it it not his primary residence.

Jeff Bachner/for New York Daily News

Chris Yorke’s flood-damaged Breezy Point vacation home does not qualify for FEMA assistance because it it not his primary residence.

Superstorm Sandy delivered the injury.

Now comes the insult.

Summer home owners, common in beach communities like the Rockaways, may be financially wiped out if they didn’t spring for pricey flood insurance because FEMA provides grants only for primary residences.

Pension salesman Chris Yorke, 43, of Albertson, L.I., learned this the hard way. He’s scared he won’t get a dime from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the Breezy summer home he’s owned since 2005.

Yorke didn’t want to pay the $800 annual flood insurance premium because it wouldn’t have covered his appliances. He lost his washer, dryer, hot water heater and boiler when groundwater flooded his basement in Hurricane Irene, he said.

“I’m an idiot,” said Yorke, whose basement was destroyed this time by Sandy. His first floor also sustained heavy water damage — despite being half a mile from the shore.

“FEMA would consider me wealthy, but that’s really not the case,” said Yorke. “I inherited the home that my parents worked so hard to build.”

Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, which represents insurance companies, said Hurricane Irene “was a warning shot” for many Americans.

“In the wake of Hurricane Irene, we saw a surge of people buying flood insurance,” he said. “Flood insurance is made available at a taxpayer-subsidized rate to people who live in coastal areas.”

Hartwig also pointed out that homeowners with federally backed mortgages are required to have flood insurance. But once a home is paid off, homeowners can opt to discontinue the coverage.

People without homeowner’s or flood insurance can turn to FEMA, as long as it is their primary residence. But the agency does not cover damages to fully insured homes, an agency official said.

“Our grant program is designed to assist people who have taken a hit to their necessities and they are not covered by insurance,” said FEMA spokesman Bill Rukeyser.

“That is one reason we consider damage to someone’s primary home, not a vacation or weekend house,” he said.

The maximum FEMA grant available is $31,900, officials said.

Vacation homes are eligible for low-interest loans if they were also used in a business capacity, such as for summer rentals.

This may provide some help for landlords who have divided a house into rentals.

Retired guidance counselor Ellen Tsuji, of Park Slope, Brooklyn, said she and her husband, a retired carpenter, didn’t have flood insurance on their Breezy Point summer home of 32 years because it was “hard to get” and “very expensive.”

“I registered with FEMA, but I don’t expect anything,” said Tsuji, whose first floor was deluged with several feet of water. “We’re very fortunate we [even] have a place to live.”

She plans to somehow fix up the home — even though she’s not quite sure how to swing it financially, she said.

“We’ll do our best,” Tsuji said.

ctrapasso@nydailynews.com

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/summer-homes-eligible-fema-grants-article-1.1203416#ixzz2ClPcuk2R

Rick Kinney

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