ARANSAS PASS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – When hurricane-force winds and heavy rain severely damaged Brandon Banda’s Aransas Pass home, he thought his government-backed wind insurance would financially protect him.
“The thought was at least we have insurance,” Banda said.
But a year after Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, thousands of homeowners, like Banda, remain displaced – unable to rebuild their homes and lives.
Like most on the Texas coast, Banda bought wind and hail insurance from the Texas Wind Insurance Association.
TWIA was created by Texas lawmakers in 1971 as a way to provide wind insurance to homeowners when private insurers would not.
Shortly after Harvey, a field adjuster from TWIA came out Banda’s home and determined it to be a total loss with the cost to rebuild exceeding his the policy limit of $166,000.
But Banda never received that money.
Instead, weeks later TWIA sent out a building consultant for a second opinion and then sent Banda a check for $23,982.
“It was just completely unreasonable,” Banda said. “It wasn’t even 20 percent of the lowest bid to fix the house.”
Banda was baffled and devastated.
The CBS 11 I-Team found he is not alone.
“Calls come in every day saying the same thing happened to me,” said Houston attorney Rick Daly.
Daly is suing TWIA on behalf of Banda and hundreds of other Texas families.
“This has devastated some of those communities down there. In fact, if you go down there today – almost a year after the storm – it looks like the hurricane happened last month,” Daly explained.
As part of the lawsuit, Daly said a TWIA supervisor testified that 80% of claims initially ruled a total loss were later lowered.
In a written statement, TWIA spokerperson Jennifer Armstrong told the I-Team, “It is not TWIA’s practice to low-ball or underpay claims … We remain committed to paying what we owe under the policy.”
TWIA said due to privacy laws it could not comment on specific cases.
Banda said after a year of trying to get TWIA to reconsider his claim, he is fed-up and stuck with a house he cannot afford to sell or rebuild.
“It’s just messed up,” said Banda. “There’s no light at the end of tunnel.”