By Susan Redden
The city of Joplin will be asking for more insurance information from Joplin homeowners who allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to clean tornado debris from their properties, city officials said this week.
The city soon will be mailing letters to those property owners, asking them to allow their insurance carriers to release information. The goal of the effort is to determine if property owners used the federally funded debris removal program and also took insurance payouts for debris removal after the May 22, 2011, tornado. If they did, that is a duplication of services, and the city is looking to get some money back so it can return it to the federal government, said Leslie Jones, city finance director.
The requests for information are going to property owners who signed right-of-entry forms for debris removal. In signing the forms, property owners agreed that they would not seek a “duplication of benefits,” meaning they would not seek insurance payments for debris removal in addition to allowing their loose debris to be removed by a government-funded contractor.
The letters are going out to about 550 homeowners, Jones said.
“There were more landowners that got the service, but the others didn’t have insurance,” she said. “The letters are going out only to those who signed the ROE forms and had insurance.”
Most residential property owners have completed their insurance settlements on debris removal and demolition, since more than 18 months have passed since the tornado.
City officials earlier asked those landowners for information designed to reconcile private insurance reimbursements and government services provided. The city was not able to determine from that data if there had been a duplication, and officials have decided that the most accurate information can be provided by the property owners’ insurance companies.
Property owners will have to sign a form allowing the information to be released. The city is mailing the forms to landowners, asking they be signed and returned to the city by Jan. 4.
A fee will be assessed if officials determine that a landowner received an insurance payout while also using government-funded debris removal. The amount will depend on the size of the lot, with charges set at $1,500 for lots up to 10,000 square feet, $2,500 for lots up to one-half acre, and $4,000 for lots a half-acre or larger.
“We are looking for property owners to respond,” Jones said., adding that fees will be assessed “only if a property owner received insurance proceeds for debris cleanup and did not use proceeds for that.”
Jones cited as an example insurance coverage that provided $5,000 for debris removal and demolition. If the property owner used the government-funded debris removal program and then paid a contractor $5,000 for demolition of the structure, there is no duplication of benefits and a fee will not be assessed.
City officials expect the effort to take several months. After the city reviews the property owners’ insurance information, landowners will receive written notification, either saying that there was no duplication and there will be no charge, or that they will get a bill.
UNDER FEDERAL REGULATIONS, property owners who do not sign and return the required forms by the Jan. 4 deadline will be determined to have received duplicated services, and will get a bill, according to the city. Information is available by calling 624-0820, ext. 244.