The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

July 28, 2011

Bank of America reacts to complaints from residents who lost homes

JOPLIN, Mo. — After a series of complaints from victims of the May 22 tornado, Bank of America has announced what it calls “improvements” in the way it handles those customers.

Dozens of homeowners filed complaints with the Missouri attorney general’s office after the storm, citing repeated delays in the processing of property insurance checks. The attorney general’s office says a week is a reasonable amount of time for storm victims to get their money; some victims waited much longer.

The Globe on July 10 reported the case of Cindy Atteberry, who wrangled with Bank of America for several weeks, then contacted her state senator and the attorney general’s office out of frustration.

Bank of America said that “after hearing some of the complaints from our customers,” it has set up a toll-free, dedicated number for Joplin homeowners who have questions or issues with the processing of their insurance checks.

The number — 866-808-7018 — is operational.

“In the meantime, Joplin homeowners are receiving top priority in the insurance claims area,” said Jumana Bauwens, spokeswoman for Bank of America.

“We have already put a number of back-end improvements in place. This effort goes a step further to emphasize how important this issue is to us and how we want to help our customers in Joplin.”

‘THE EASY PART’

Tornado survivor Julie Hunt, 34, said she didn’t believe anyone at Bank of America cared until she became so desperate that she “just begged” for help via email from Brian Moynihan, the company’s CEO and president.

On May 22, Hunt and her husband, Jason, clung to their three young children as their house at 23rd Street and Pearl Avenue “just exploded” above them. Shouts of “I love you” and “I’ll see you soon” were ripped away by the wind.

“We thought we were going to die,” she said.

When it was over, the Hunts were alive, but their home was a complete loss.

They got a settlement from their homeowners insurance company, Travelers, in three days, Julie Hunt said. One insurance check — for the contents of the house — was made out to her. The other — for the house itself, including paying off what remained of the mortgage — was made out to both Hunt and Bank of America.

After several frustrating weeks of trying to get that check processed by Bank of America, Hunt said: “Surviving the tornado was the easy part.”

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