Insurance issues arise as community rebuilds from tornado

Posted at 10:33 PM, Aug 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 11:29:53-04

MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WTVF) — Amid the pandemic, middle Tennessee continues to recover from the devastating tornadoes that hit back in March, with homeowners filing thousands of insurance claims to help with the damage.

But the decision to repair or completely rebuild homes can put homeowners at odds with their insurance companies.

Mike Hethcote lives in the Triple Crown subdivision of Mt. Juliet, where the tornado did a lot of damage.

"When it rains, it rains directly in the home," Hethcote said, pointing to his tornado-damaged home.

Specifically, Hethcote says it will cost more than half the value of the home to repair it.

Under a Mt. Juliet City Building Code, when that happens, the home is supposed to be torn down and completely rebuilt.

"Well, my insurance company is telling me, it's repairable it doesn’t need to be demolished," Hethcote said.

So Hethcote says Travelers Insurance, his insurance company, hasn’t agreed to pay out beyond repair costs, adding 10 percent extra.

"Ten percent, even with the money I’ve been given for repair, is not going to be enough to demo and rebuild this house," Hethcote said.

Without a demolition, Hethcote worries his dream home will turn into a money pit, with hidden repairs popping up perhaps years down the road.

"I’m just worried about how safe will this home be. I mean its literally been through a tornado," Hethcote said.

Hethcote reached out to Mt. Juliet City Commissioner Ray Justice, who says he’s found this kind of practice that he says hamstrings homeowners is happening with several homes in Mt. Juliet, and several insurance companies.

"This is actually turning into a trend," Justice said, "and I’m not a big fan of bullies. As a matter of fact, we’re not going to tolerate bullies."

NewsChannel 5 reached out to Travelers Insurance Tuesday night, which sold the homeowners policy on Hethcote's home. They got back to us Wednesday morning with the following statement:

"We have currently paid more than $240,000 for repairs and additional living expenses to our customer, and we continue to work closely with Mr. Hethcote and building experts to find an acceptable resolution to his claim."

Editors note: This article was updated to reflect the timing that Travelers responded to NewsChannel 5's request for comment. The insurance company responded Wednesday morning, not afternoon.