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Thursday 1 December 2022
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After Basement Collapse, Neighbors and Strangers Step Up to Help Farmington Couple Rebuild Home

Hurricane Sandy destructionThe night of June 14, 2015, seemed like any other for Gary and Janice Burkhart of Farmington, NY. Janice had gone to bed while her husband Gary watched a baseball game.

But all of a sudden, the couple heard a crash and the sound of glass breaking. Thinking the tree in their backyard had fallen on their home’s roof, they rushed to check.

The tree still stood intact. But about 50 feet of their basement wall had caved in, leaving behind dirt and crumbling cement blocks.

When the Manchester Fire Department showed up, the family was told to vacate immediately. The couple has been staying in a motel for the past five weeks.

The wet winter and spring in upstate New York caused the soil around the house to retain moisture. This led to a mudslide and flooding in the basement, which also severely damaged the home’s furnace and electrical panel.

Yet due to the nature of the damage, the couple’s homeowners insurance company, Ontario Insurance Company, has said that the repairs aren’t covered under their policy. The collapse, the insurer said, was due to hydrostatic pressure on the walls and isn’t something they will cover.

Two contractors who met with the Burkhart’s said that fixing the damage could cost between $60,000 and $80,000.

A neighbor, Sarah Ashworth, started a GoFundMe page for the couple, who she says has always been generous to their community. Now Ashworth wants to make sure that they get the help they need.

Areas like Farmington, which tend to be more rural, often require not just regular homeowner policies but farmers homeowner insurance, which is designed for those who live on or near the nation’s 2.2 million farms.

Even businesses can face disaster. The Director of the Cohocton, NY, library, Hope Decker, said that they also used Ontario Insurance Company and didn’t receive any payment from them after a wall collapsed.

The insurance company said that the wall collapse was caused by “deterioration” and refused to pay the $28,000 in repairs.

The library sued the insurance company, but they weren’t able to recoup much beyond the lawyer’s fees. In the end, they only saw a reimbursement for half the damage, but it was still something.

However, other homeowners have had some luck with online crowdfunding after disaster.

Tim Wiesenhahn, a Lexington, KY, teacher, came home from a vacation to find that his basement wall had caved in. After his insurance company refused to pay the $25,000 repair costs, the community set up a GoFundMe page and raised more than $17,000 for him.

The Burkharts’ GoFundMe page has so far raised a little over $6,000, thanks to donations from 81 people in just 15 days. The goal to cover the cost of the repairs is $70,000.