New Jersey family battles insurance to rebuild their home after fire

Nina Pineda Image
Friday, March 31, 2023
New Jersey family battles insurance to rebuild their home after fire
When a fire ripped through a West Milford home, fortunately, the family and their pets survived.

WEST MILFORD, New Jersey (WABC) -- When a fire ripped through a West Milford home, fortunately, the family and their pets survived.

That was last year and ever since the homeowners say they have been battling with their insurance company to get reimbursed and rebuild.

When they couldn't get what they felt they deserved they got Nina Pineda and 7 On Your Side's help.

Military mom and dad to two U.S. marines, son Jake and daughter Ashley, the Santangelos were brought to tears.

"I can't look at this house anymore, I just can't," April Santangelo said.

Their home burned down last September in a devastating fire that almost killed their youngest son Tyler, dog Harley, and Smalls the cat.

"We watched our home of 19 years we raised three children in, we watched it burn," John Santangelo said.

When 7 On Your Side met John and April before Christmas they were homeless and exhausted by a battle with their insurance.

Their property is insured for more than $500,000 with an additional $382,000 for personal property.

But after the fire deemed the home a total loss, State Farm sent them a settlement offer of $295,000.

"How can you have one calculator when trying to get premiums and have a completely different calculator close to a $200,000 difference when a claim comes in? How is that even legal? That's my question. How do you do this to a family?" John said.

The distraught couple hired a public adjuster, United Public Adjustors, and made a video appealing for more reimbursement.

But despite detailing April's cervical cancer diagnosis, eight surgeries, and kidney removal, the family with no roof over their head was not getting more money, until their adjustor called 7 On Your Side, we heard and saw their loss and sent a tweet to State Farm.

"After your tweet went out, State Farm sent higher-up adjustors and the offer went up $89,000," John said.

They can finally demo and rebuild. The insurance giant couldn't discuss details because of privacy.

But, State Farm did share that they are "working with their customers to make sure they get all the benefits they're entitled to under their insurance policy."

"First, I want to thank Channel 7 On Your Side for showing up because the after you showed up State Farm sent a manager, found a lot of mistakes, and increased the offer within a couple of weeks," said Philip Maltaghati, United Public Adjustors and Appraisers.

"We would have lost this home, lost this home and sold this property, start somewhere else," April said.

"Very happy to contact 7 On Your Side, without Nina and 7 On Your Side and our public adjustor we wouldn't have been able build the basics of our house, we so appreciate it," John said.

State Farm full statement below:

"We take pride in our customer service and are committed to paying what we owe promptly, courteously, and efficiently. While we are unable to speak to the specifics of any claim due to our customer privacy policy, we can share that we continue to work with our customers through their contracted public adjuster to provide all benefits to which they are entitled within the terms of the insurance policy. Each claim is thoroughly investigated and we work with customers to understand the facts of the loss, identify applicable coverage, and resolve their claim."

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