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INSURER'S DELAY ANGERS 6 M.H. FAMILIES
Stuck in a bureaucratic nightmare, six families whose condominiums burned in March are still out of their Morgan Hill homes because they've been waiting for Farmers Insurance Group to pay off on the fire damage.
Construction work stopped the first of July at Park Place Condominiums because the insurer was so far behind in paying for repairs -- and then promised but never delivered enough money for the contractor to finish up, homeowners say. That is until Monday, when, after receiving calls from the Mercury News, Farmers hand-delivered a $90,000 check to complete repairs.
But homeowners, who spent most of the last two months haggling, cajoling and pleading with the insurer, say they shouldn't have had to go through this.
''First we were fire victims, now we're victims again," said Colleen Di Nardo, whose unit sustained major damage. A different insurer who covered her personal belongings was becoming so impatient that it suggested it would cut off paying her interim rent because repairs took so long.
For their part, Farmers officials say it was a case of "miscommunication."
''If we were aware of the situation, we would have done something about it," said Steve Roditti, a regional claims manager, "and when we became aware, we did."
But homeowners and the contractor said they called and wrote Farmers several times asking why they were holding up payment on the $240,000 job. After all, the insurer had approved the contractor's bid and work was ahead of schedule. But, they say, Farmers refused to tell them. Or help. Now, contractor Ralph Dominguez says he's about a month behind schedule and is rushing to get everyone moved back in by the end of August -- six months after the fire. Dominguez said he became irate when a Farmers adjustor suggested to his office manager that if he couldn't wait 90 to 120 days to be paid, "I should get out of the building business."
Meanwhile, Greg and Kim Quirke cannot afford to pay rent, plus their mortgage and condo association dues, so they are living with Greg's parents.
''It's a mental headache. All of our things are in storage," said Greg. "I've called the adjustor for Farmers. Their bottom line is that a claim of this size takes a lot of time and is out of their hands."
When the condominium association's president called to see why a promised check hadn't arrived, a local Farmers adjustor said his office couldn't do anything: "When I asked 'Where do we go from here?' he said he had no idea," Nancy Spencer said.
''We pay our premiums on time," Spencer said. "If we failed to pay for this length of time, we would have been dropped."
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