Insurance probe under way

If Cavalier Apartment residents should have been protected by county-paid flood insurance during last week's flooding, someone needs to pay up, Mecklenburg County Commissioners' Chairman Jennifer Roberts said Sunday.

Who's responsible won't be known until the county determines which residents turned in their paperwork on time – but learned from the insurance company they weren't insured after rising waters engulfed their apartments.

The policy – worth $10,000 for belongings per policy – was offered to residents for a year at the county's expense. In June, the county paid nearly $10 million in mostly federal money to buy the flood-prone Cavalier in east Charlotte. When the latest flood came, residents were being relocated so the complex could be torn down in mid-2009 for a park.

Some residents said there were 20 to 30 residents who thought their policy would pay for losses. County officials said they've heard from only 10. The residents were told by The Hartford insurance company that their applications arrived in August and hadn't cleared a 30-day waiting period – so their belongings would not be covered.

Many residents said they'd signed the documents in spring or early summer.

If the county sat on paperwork, “then we absolutely need to come through and treat these people as if they were insured,” Roberts said. “I believe we would have to follow the terms of the policy.”

If the insurance company or county-hired relocation company is at fault, “then we should work for these residents and become advocates for them,” she said.

“We are going to do as much as we can to help them. First, we need to figure out who really should have been insured, and is not.”

Dave Canaan, county director of stormwater services who oversaw the insurance offer, said the review will follow each application from start to finish.

“We'll do a timeline for each one and see what happened,” Canaan said. “We just don't have the data yet to respond to what we're going to do.”

The data-gathering began Sunday by THC Inc., an Atlanta-based company hired by the county to oversee the relocation, Canaan said. THC and the county handled the paperwork for the insurance policies, he said.

Most of the review will begin Tuesday. Canaan hopes to have a report for county commissioners by their Wednesday meeting.

Canaan had a county-hired insurance adjustor document what had been lost at each of the 10 apartments occupied by residents who said they had flood insurance.

At the same time, the county has tried to help residents find new quarters, refunding their security deposits and cutting checks of $900 to $1,100 to help with their relocation, Canaan said. As of Sunday, the county had cut 72 checks – for more than half of the units occupied before the floods came.

The county has also hired off-duty CMPD offices to guard the apartments.

Some Cavalier residents welcomed Roberts' concerns, but were skeptical.

“It sounds good, but we've heard so many promises so far,” said Chris Jeannot, a ground-floor resident who lost most of his belongings. “There are multiple agencies involved here, and so far none have been willing to take any degree of responsibility.

“Maybe a court will have to decide who's responsible.”

Akira Darroux said he signed insurance papers in May, but was told by a representative of The Hartford that she didn't receive them until Aug. 7.

The water rose to five feet in the apartment he shared with his fiancee. They lost their new TV, a computer, furniture, clothes, wedding shoes and family photos.

“It's a hopeful sign that someone is concerned,” Darroux said. “If the county will accept responsibility, I can accept that. Someone's at fault here, and we've gotten no answers.”