Los Angeles Questions Flood Claims, Angering Residents

April 23, 2010

The city of Los Angeles is delaying payment to some residents who officials say are making questionable claims stemming from a water main break that flooded homes last fall.

Assistant City Attorney Joe Brajevich said claims that require more scrutiny include a $16,000 patio set, $15,000 curtains and one person seeking $200,000 for personal items.

Another person wants $95,000 for a diamond ring they say washed off a kitchen counter.

Some residents also want the city to reimburse them for rental housing costs exceeding $5,000 a month.

Brajevich said his office is acting to ensure the city is not falling victim to fraudulent claims.

More than 100 homeowners and businesses filed damage claims after a 62-inch pipe burst last September in Studio City, Calif., sending hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and sludge into homes. So far, 25 homeowner claims have been settled.

In some cases, homes were rendered uninhabitable and residents had to resort to rental housing.

Homeowners complained at a City Council committee hearing last week that the city is nickel-and-diming them for thousands of dollars worth of damage and demanding receipts for every item.

“We are just so stunned by the way we have been treated,” homeowner Naghmeh Sefaradi said. “We lost our home overnight. … Nobody has done anything to help us out.”

City Councilman Paul Koretz noted an elderly couple accepted a settlement far less than the worth of their damaged property because they were tired of battling the Department of Water and Power.

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