COVINGTON -- When you walk through the downstairs area of Nick Chetta's Magnolia Gardens home, it seems more like a warehouse than a living space, even though the flood water that made it that way have been gone for close to two years now.
"It's just, it's just hell," he said.
The Bogue Falaya River put 18 inches of water in his home, which he trusted Wright Flood Insurance to pay him to repair, but he's only been able to get halfway through with the work.
"I had a $350,000 policy," he said. When asked how much he's received so far, the answer was $48,000, which he said he had to fight for to begin with.
Chetta says despite endless calls, submitting countless contractor proposals and material purchase receipts, he's been utterly ignored by Wright Insurance. He's now hired an attorney to try the legal route.
Every day waking up to disrepair inside, and his most precious possessions outside, has left him with a variety of emotions, but one stands out.
"Cheated," he said, "I mean this is America. You always hear about the news, when it floods and we have hurricanes, how people are hurting and people pitch in. The sad thing is that the insurance companies that should be there to pick you up and make things better desert you."
A media representative with Wright Flood responded, "Although we can't comment on a specific claim, Wright Flood always strives to keep open communications going with our policyholders and will be following up again with Mr. Chetta to resolve open issues."
FEMA, which manages the National Flood Insurance Program that Wright sells policies for, responded by encouraging homeowners to file an appeal directly with the agency when in conflict with an insurance company. The agency said in a press release:
"On appeal, FEMA will work with you and your insurer to gather the claim facts, review the applicable guidance, policy terms and conditions, and provide an appeal decision that explains why FEMA is upholding or overturning the decision."
When asked about Chetta's dilemma, with allegedly not getting communication from the insurance company at all, a media representative clarified in a statement, "Policyholders need to reach out to FEMA in a 'reasonable' time period if they are not receiving the response necessary for them to move forward. Due to confidentially only the policyholder can contact the NFIP hotline for assistance."
Chetta, also a Katrina victim, surprisingly says he still holds out hope that one day he'll see his house become a home once again.
Eyewitness News spoke to the Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDI), Congressman Steve Scalise's office, as well Senators John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy's offices about Chetta's case.
Scalise spokeswoman Lauren Fine said, "Our office has worked with Mr. Chetta to try to resolve these issues and is continuing to press FEMA for answers. We know that Mr. Chetta is hardly the only Louisianan to face difficulties with the claims process, and we are putting pressure on FEMA every day to address these issues. Battling with the confusing FEMA bureaucracy is the last thing people who have lost their homes in a disaster should have to worry about, and our office is here to assist those having trouble with getting the answers they need and their claims processed in a timely fashion.”
Both senators' offices offered to help Chetta, and any other homeowners struggling with similar recovery setbacks. Kennedy, R-Louisiana, said, "I encourage flood victims to contact my office if they are encountering problems with their flood insurance claims. My office's caseworkers are experienced in dealing with FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program. Office numbers can be found on my website at https://www.kennedy.senate.gov/public/."
The LDI says if a homeowner has a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the policyholder may be able to file an appeal with the NFIP.
The NFIP Help Center is 1-800-427-4661 or 1-800-621-3362.
Appeals to FEMA can be sent to FEMA, 400 C Street SW, 3rd Floor SW, Washington, D.C. 20472-3010, or FEMA-NFIP-Appeals@fema.dhs.gov.
If the policy is a private flood policy (not NFIP), according to the LDI, the policyholder can file a complaint with the Department of Insurance. Policyholders can file a complaint online, or if they need a paper copy of the form, the LDI can mail them one.