Couple battling FEMA, insurance over Sandy flooding

Seven On Your Side
July 26, 2013 7:52:28 PM PDT
It was the couple's first home, but last October Superstorm Sandy left it submerged.

Now, the homeowners are in limbo between FEMA that won't pay for damages and a town that says it's uninhabitable.

"We love the house," said Miles Vandina, homeowner.

"We love it and we want to come back here, we just need help getting back here," said Pam Lee, homeowner.

Newlyweds Pam Lee and Miles Vandina aren't allowed back into the Bellmore bungalow they bought last year.

"You guys are stuck?" 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda asked.

"Yeah we're completely stuck," Lee said.

They're caught between the town, which condemned their house, and FEMA, it denied paying their flood insurance claim.

"It's frustrating, upsetting," the couple said.

Inside, the house is gutted.

The foundation's crumbling and in some places missing and shafts of daylight show where.

Flood insurance paid them $60,000, but fixing the foundation will take a lot more.

"They're saying there is no damage to the foundation and all the damage to the house is all pre-Sandy," Vandina said.

The Town of Hempstead building inspector, who's assessed hundreds of homes since Sandy, couldn't disagree more.

"You really can't leave the foundation as is, it all needs to be replaced," said Vincent Albert, Hempstead Building Inspector.

Hempstead deemed the house more than 50% damaged and condemned it as unsafe.

"It has to be raised and rebuilt, it can't be fixed as is," Albert said.

After an independent engineer the couple hired agreed with the town, they requested a re-inspection.

"They made a determination that the foundation was sound," Lee said.

The second adjustor also blamed improper drainage, not Bellmore's five feet of surge for causing the flood, and their full claim was denied again.

"Five feet of water it, doesn't matter if you have a ton of drainage," Vandina said.

"Where would the water go, where would it drain to?" Lee said.

"The water comes up through the ground, there is no slab in there, it comes straight up through the groundwater," Albert said.

"So even if the house had drainage, it still would've flooded," Pineda said.

It's a point they can't seem to prove to FEMA, leaving Pam and Miles homeless while paying a mortgage on a house they can't live inside.

"We're just completely stuck. We can't do anything, our hands are tied since December," Lee said.

Pam Lee appealed the flood insurance denial to pay for the foundation fixes. Only this week, she learned that appeal was denied.

Her next step will be hiring a lawyer to fight against FEMA.