Nov. 01--There is not a more misleading street name than Good Luck Drive in the Bayville section of Berkeley.
Jutting out into the Barnegat Bay, the neighbors there said the homes were demolished under crushing wind and waves brought by Hurricane Sandy.
"We walked in and it was like walking on the moon," said Danielle Hanson, 44. "We can't even explain it."
It wasn't an uncommon observation. Shore-area property owners faced with crippling damage from Sandy turned Wednesday to their insurance policies to find out what it would cost them to repair -- or rebuild -- their homes and businesses.
They learned nothing will be easy. The damage many of them found was unimaginable. The insurance coverage can be complicated. And their insurance agents, with communication spotty, might have been tough to track down.
The first piece of advice? "Call the 800 number in your policy to notify your carrier and have an adjuster look at it," said Kevin Foley, owner of PFT&K Insurance Brokers in Milltown.
Insurance policies for property owners generally cover damage caused by fire, wind, rain and equipment malfunction to the building's structure and the contents inside. They can extend their coverage to include backup of sewer and drains, like a sump pump failure, Foley said.
They also can buy a separate policy to cover damage caused by floods through a federal government program that began in the 1960s, when it became clear that the threat and expense of floods would make them too big of a risk for private insurers, said Lynne McChristian, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute.
Those policies cover damage of up to $250,000 for the structure and up to $100,000 for the content. (Insurers will reimburse you only for the current value of the contents, not what you bought them for. So a $500 television set that you bought 10 years ago might be worth only $50 now.)
Homeowners in high-risk flood zones might have been required by their lenders to have flood insurance. They also might have bought extra coverage to cover damages for more than the government policy's limit.
Homeowners outside the riskiest flood zones aren't required to have flood insurance and may pay heavily for it because of Sandy's widespread damage.
Owners of commercial buildings also would buy separate policies for flood damage.
Insurance adjusters should be able to discern what caused the damage, Foley said.
Mortgage payments likely will be due as scheduled, regardless of the extent of the damage, but Carol Kaplan, a spokeswoman with the American Bankers Association, encouraged homeowners to contact their lender and let them know what happened.
New Jersey homeowners have caught a couple of insurance breaks that might have saved them millions -- at least for now.
In 2008, FEMA redrew its flood zone map for the Bayshore, prompting complaints from homeowners and a lawsuit from Monmouth County that it would force them to buy flood insurance. Four years later, the decision could have been a saving grace.
Also, homeowners' rebuilding the nonflood damage caused by Sandy will pay their regular insurance deductibles instead of the more costly hurricane deductibles, the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance ruled.
Ed Rogan, a spokesman for the agency, said the storm was reclassified from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone before it hit land -- a distinction that gave homeowners a massive break.
Hurricane deductibles would have forced homeowners to pay anywhere from 1 percent to 5 percent of the value of their home for repairs, with insurers covering the rest. So a homeowner with a $350,000 home and a 2 percent deductible would pay the first $7,000, far more expensive than a regular deductible of about $500 to $1,000.
It was good news for consumers on a day where that was hard to come by. Steve Gardella, an insurance agent himself, owns commercial buildings in Sea Bright. One of his tenants called him to say the building was intact, but the damage was extensive.
The borough, however, had been decimated.
"I'm just anxious because I want to get down there and see what's going on," he said. "I can't think any other way until I see it for myself."
Michael L. Diamond; 732-643-4038; firstname.lastname@example.org
(c)2012 the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.)
Visit the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.) at www.app.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services