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The Telegram
  • Landlords up a creek after flooding

  • Village landlord Elyse Kane never thought she and her husband would be denied flood assistance from the state.
    But they recently had a state assessor visit their property at 218 Church St. in Herkimer — a home split into three apartments that sustained almost $9,000 in flood damage earlier this summer. They were informed that because they don't live at the property, they can't get help.
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  • Village landlord Elyse Kane never thought she and her husband would be denied flood assistance from the state.
    But they recently had a state assessor visit their property at 218 Church St. in Herkimer — a home split into three apartments that sustained almost $9,000 in flood damage earlier this summer. They were informed that because they don't live at the property, they can't get help.
    "It just doesn't seem fair that they would cover other homeowners and other businesses, and we would be cut out," Kane said. "It just sounds like a loophole."
    In July, the state designated $4 million in flood assistance in the form of grants for residents, business owners and farmers. Homeowners could be eligible for up to $31,900 in assistance, and small-business owners and farmers or farm operations could be eligible for up to $50,000.
    Now, some area landlords are finding out they don't qualify.
    "Landlords can be eligible under specific conditions, and those conditions include the landlord residing in the primary residence where other units are rented out," said Peter Cutler, deputy commissioner for public affairs at the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
    He said the same guidelines were used as those stipulated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
    Caitlin Ostomel, the external affairs officer for FEMA, confirmed that if federal assistance had been designated, landlords who didn't live on the property likely wouldn't have been eligible.
    Cutler said the number of landlords who applied for aid as well as how many actually were eligible were not available.
    New Hartford resident Paul Miscione said seven buildings he rents out in Herkimer sustained damage with an estimated cost of about $90,000.
    He said he waited in line at an application center set up at Herkimer County Community College for three hours to apply for aid that he now has learned he's not eligible for.
    "It's just frustrating," he said. "The plan that they came together with, they should have had it up front who was eligible. I could have made other arrangements to start working on furnaces and other things."
    'That's my business'
    What Miscione and Kane don't understand is why they aren't considered small businesses.
    "We pay our income taxes as it is a small business," Kane said. "I thought we would fall under that category."
    "I'm a small business, and that's my business," Miscione said of the 35 properties he rents out. "I've been doing it for 12 years."
    Cutler said there was a distinction made between a landlord with real property and a business function on a main street of a community.
    Meanwhile, Cutler said state assistance to small businesses would cover loss of inventory, exterior or interior repairs and replacement of permanent fixtures and equipment.
    Page 2 of 2 - FEMA officials said federal assistance isn't provided to businesses.
    Assistance available
    While it might not be a grant, there might be some assistance available for landlords.
    A declaration was made recently by the U.S. Small Business Association that offers low-interest loans to businesses and homeowners looking to replace damaged or destroyed real estate. The designation covers Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery and Oneida counties as well as adjacent counties.
    Kane said she might apply for the low-interest loan, but she's also going to try and persuade local officials to get the qualifications changed.
    "I'm going to continue to try and email our assemblyman and mayor — whoever we can on our side — to try and change their minds," she said.
    State Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, said she's aware of the concern some landlords who weren't required to have flood insurance have.
    "It's not such a bright, clear line who is going to get reimbursed and who's not," she said. "I'm working on trying to find another funding stream so we can divert some of that money to people who need it."
    Small-business loan information
    Low-interest loans are available through the U.S. Small Business Administration to businesses, homeowners and nonprofit organizations affected by the recent floods.
    The declaration covers Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery and Oneida counties, as well as counties adjacent to them.
    Homeowners looking to replace damaged or destroyed real estate can apply for up to $200,000, and homeowners looking to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property can apply for up to $40,000, a news release stated.
    Businesses and nonprofit organizations of any size can borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets, the release stated.
    For more information about these low-interest loans, visit www.sba.gov/disaster.
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