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Sen. Schumer Warns Insurance Companies Against 'Playing Games' With Sandy Victims

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Sen. Charles Schumer has issued a warning to insurance companies who may try to take advantage of people whose homes were badly damaged or destroyed in superstorm Sandy.

"Today, we've sent a letter to NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration], the weather agency, as well as to the insurance companies that we're looking over their shoulder. We want NOAA to keep this classified as a tropical storm and to save homeowners in New York and Long Island thousands of dollars and we don't want the insurance companies to play any games," Schumer told WCBS 880.

Schumer said the difference between a hurricane and a tropical storm for insurance purposes could be very costly to homeowners who have already lost so much.

"Sandy was classified not as a hurricane but as a tropical storm and that, while it doesn't sound like it's much of a difference, we all know how horrible the damage was, it actually makes a real difference to homeowners because in your homeowner insurance policy, if it's a hurricane, there is a deductible that can be approximately $20,000. Whereas if Sandy is called a tropical storm, the deductible is only $1,000 and they pay you the rest," Schumer told WCBS 880.

"Already, some in the insurance industry are up to their old game trying to get out of paying the full share," Schumer said.

Sandy had been classified as a category 1 hurricane until it made landfall in New Jersey. At that time, government forecasters determined Sandy became a post-tropical storm.

"This could mean thousands of dollars to families in New York City and Long Island, New Jersey. And the insurance companies are already putting pressure on NOAA, the weather agency, to reclassify Sandy as a hurricane," Schumer said. "Some have threatened to go to court and some will just try to take advantage of homeowners and charge this large deductible which costs homeowners about $20,000 up front."

Schumer said policyholders should remain vigilant to ensure they are not taken advantage of by their insurance company.

"The reason you have insurance is that they'll stand by you when you have got in real trouble and we all know how many people have," Schumer told WCBS 880. "If the insurance company tries to say 'oh, it was a hurricane and you've got to pay the first $20,000 or so,' fight back or call the state insurance department or any of your local officials," Schumer said.

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