(WSVN) - Everyone who’s filed a claim with their insurance company after Irma, raise your hand. Now, everyone who got the money and finished the repairs, put your hands down. Odds are a lot of hands would still be in the air, attached to frustrated homeowners, which is why one of them called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Mario and his family came to South Florida from New Jersey.

The weather in both places is one reason they are now Floridians.

Mario Oria, wants insurance money released: “I like it here a lot better. The sun, no shoveling snow at 5 in the morning to get there at 8.”

Of course, the downside to the Sunshine State is, it’s a magnet for hurricanes, as the Orias found out when Irma stormed through.

Mario Oria: “Pretty bad. Came in here, and everything was pretty much wet. Water coming through the celling, water coming through part of the walls.”

The roof and a lot of drywall needed replacing. That began the battle with their insurance company.

Mario Oria: “We never expected it to be such a headache with all the process that we’ve gone through.”

After several months, the insurance company finally agreed to pay $16,000. But as first-time home buyers, another first for Mario: He discovered he didn’t control that money.

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Legally, the law is clear. Since the owner has a mortgage on the property, the lender has a right to make sure the money is only spent to fix the home and can hold that money ’till that bank’s rules are followed.”

The bank released $8,000 so Mario had the money to hire a roofer to start the work.

After that part was done, the roofer said he needed the other $8,000 to finish the job. The bank said, not until we get the proper paperwork from the roofer.

Mario Oria: “Then they tell me they need a W-9, and then we sent them a W-9, and I get the same runaround. ‘No, it’s wrong again.'”

Mario has talked to the bank, and the roofer has talked to the bank, but the bank won’t release the money to pay the roofer, leaving Mario in the middle.

Mario Oria: “And it’s been sitting there like that for, I think since March, so we can’t do anything. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

As the anniversary of Irma passed, the Orias sat in a house that is developing leaks again. It’s a house that doesn’t look very different from the home Irma smashed into a year ago.

Mario Oria: “I’m very annoyed, to the point that I’m not sure if I want to live here.”

Well, Howard, what can you do to ensure a bank releases the money to repair your house?

Howard Finkelstein: “Remember I said you have to follow their rules? Not just the homeowner, but the contractor has to do what the lender requires as well. And usually that means filling out the proper forms to get the money released.”

This turned out to be simple, and the bank was not the problem.

The contractor said he had turned Mario’s job over to an employee, and the employee had been giving the lender the wrong W-9 information.

The bank told us, when they submitted that form to the IRS, they kicked it back.

After we talked to the contractor and the bank, the proper information was supplied, and Mario got the $8,000 he needed to finish the work.

Mario Oria: “Finally got the roof checked in, and it was all thanks to Patrick Fraser and the Help Me Howard team.”

With the money in his account, Mario will now pay piece by piece ’till the work is finally finished.

Mario Oria: “I am actually glad I am getting a roof. Not having a roof was just such a bummer.”

A bad roof is no fun. And at least the Orias got their insurance company to pay their claim. Many people are still battling their insurance company that refuses to pay for any repairs. If you fall into that category, it might be time to hire a public adjuster or an attorney to sue the insurance company. Irma is gone, but the battles go on for homeowners.

Ready to blow the roof off a problem you have? Need someone to step in and patch things up? Contact us. We can’t give you cash, but you can bank on us trying to help.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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