On the night of October 20, 2019, Barbara Presser said she hid in her bathroom as an EF3 tornado blew through her home.
“It looked like a war zone,” said Presser of the aftermath.
It would turn out the battle was just beginning. A year and a half after the tornado, her condo hasn’t been rebuilt. There's an empty field where her building used to stand.
The latest news from around North Texas.
“I drive by every once in a while and nothing's changed. Really, it makes me angry,” said Presser.
Presser and her sister, Mimi Roth, co-own their three-bedroom condo at Park Central Condominiums in Dallas.
They say they bought insurance for their unit - which covers the contents in their home.
The holdup, they learned, was between their homeowners association and its insurance provider.
“It's out of our hands,” said Roth. “We were told that our next step would be once the construction has begun, they were going to have individual meetings with homeowners so that we could pick out if we wanted to upgrade anything.”
“I figured they were insured, I was insured and I figured that surely in one year, my sister and I would start fixing up the interior. But no, not even close,” said Presser.
The tornado destroyed several buildings at Park Central Condominiums – which impacted around 30 units.
Steven McReynolds lived in one of those units with his girlfriend. For more than a year, they say they have shared a spare bedroom in her daughter’s home.
“We're living in one little room at her daughter's house. We've been doing that for a year. It's really, really getting to us, you know,” said McReynolds.
He said he owns the condo unit outright and feels stuck.
“I don't want to sell,” said McReynolds. “You can't get what you paid for it, you know, because there's nothing here.”
“Can’t get on with our lives, really,” McReynolds added.
The condo owners who spoke with NBC 5 said although their homes are gone, they’re still required to pay HOA assessments and hundreds in monthly HOA dues – which include utilities.
“We can't step foot on the property that we are paying taxes on, that we are paying association dues on. And we have no idea when that will come,” said Danielle St. Romain.
NBC 5 Responds asked the Park Central Condominium Association about the rebuilding delays.
In a letter emailed to NBC 5, the association wrote, in part, “Unfortunately, there is a multimillion-dollar difference in our current bid to rebuild and the settlement offer from our insurance company (United Specialty Insurance Company, who is represented by Strata Claims Managers). Because our efforts to negotiate and explain this significant difference have been unsuccessful to this point, we are exploring all other options available to park central to resolve the situation.”
The association also said the settlement offered by insurance wouldn’t pay for the same build-out that existed before and pointed to differences in material and labor costs.
The HOA didn’t respond to follow-up questions about the timeline for “exploring all other options”.
After NBC 5 Responds reached out, the HOA shared a May 3 communication with owners. NBC 5 Responds reviewed the communication which said the insurance company recommended mediation and the HOA has hired an insurance attorney to review the information.
The communication also said the HOA and insurance company are about $3 million dollars apart in the negotiation.
We asked United Specialty Insurance Company and Strata Claims Managers about the ongoing negotiation.
Our phone calls and emails went unanswered.
In a situation like this, condominium owners would likely have to work through their HOA to settle an insurance claim said Quentin Brogdon, a Dallas-based attorney who is not involved in this case.
“The power of those individual residents to try and enforce what an insurance company pays for those policies that cover the residence itself: the walls, the roofs, the ceilings are going to be very limited,” explained Brogdon.
Individual owners should review their HOA bylaws and understand each party’s responsibility in a disaster. When the HOA’s insurance covers the building itself, people who live in the individual units rely on the HOA to work through the claim.
“If they [the HOA] haven't been responsive to me, I would ask why. I would ask for information, I would ask for updates and I would push the issue as best I can to the board of directors,” said Brogdon.
One option may be to ask the board to hire a public adjuster.
“The public adjuster can get to the bottom of where the disconnect is: is it simply pricing, is it scope, is it both? Or, is it coverage?” said Brian Revere, president of a public adjuster firm with offices in four states - including Texas.
“If you try to handle a claim on your own without representation, it's kind of like going to court without a lawyer. You're on your own and it's not a fair fight,” said Revere.
It’s not a free service. Revere says most public adjusters charge 10% of what they can recover by negotiating on the customer's behalf.
Public adjusters in Texas are licensed by the Texas Department of Insurance.
You can look up an adjusters license status here. Click on the link that says “lookup an agent by name or license number”. That takes you to another page where you can use the drop-down menu to select “Texas” and then type in the company name or adjuster’s individual name.
If you’re considering hiring a public adjuster, do your research and check references.
It’s not clear if the Park Central Condominium Association has considered that option.
The owners who spoke with NBC 5 Responds, in the meantime, said they feel they’ve done everything they could to make themselves whole.
They say they hope sharing their story will bring the insurance company and HOA to the table so they can return to their homes.
NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our Customer Complaint form.