Hurricane Harvey - Keep Yourself and Your Home Protected
While Texas and Louisiana are no strangers to natural disasters, including hurricanes, tropical storms, and flooding, they once again are asked to cope with the forces of nature that dealt a mighty blow.
Bills.com extends its condolences to those who suffered losses, wishes a speedy recovery to those who were injured, and salutes all the brave people who risked their lives to maintain order and safety for the millions affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The storm and flooding has caused major damage in certain areas to homes, buildings, and infrastructure. It has also displaced many people and caused economic damage to countless businesses. It will take some time to fully assess the damage and far longer to rebuild the economy and repair the damage.
Naturally, the main short-term focus is on safety and the preservation of life. However, many homes have been damaged and too many families are going to struggle financially in the short-term and even longer.
In order to help the good residents of Texas and Louisiana cope, and also to aid anyone else who suffers from a natural disaster, accurate information about the following can offer some aid and comfort or protect Harvey victims from adding more trouble to what they currently face.
We want anyone who needs it to know:
- The proper contacts for Immediate relief
- What kind of mortgage relief is available and where to get it
- How to avoid scams that can add misery to an already tragic situation
Immediate Relief from Hurricane Harvey
The most important step to take is to stay alert and follow any emergency directives. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers information and resources for areas stricken by a disaster. In case of life threatening emergencies,
First, call 911. If you can't get through to 911 on first try, keep calling. Second, call your local County Emergency Operation Center.”
They list phone numbers for areas affected by the disaster.
The President of the US made a Major Disaster Declaration for Texas. According to the news release from August 25, 2017 The President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Bee, Goliad, Kleberg, Nueces, San Patricio, and Refugio counties. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
In addition, for residents of Louisiana, The Governor of Louisiana declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Louisiana. Subsequently, President Trump declared on August 28, 2017 an Emergency Declaration, Louisiana Tropical Storm Harvey (EM-3382) which will provide federal aid to the state of Louisiana.
As of August 30, 2017 FEMA reported that Texas Hurricane Harvey (DR-4332) had already approved 45,693 requests for individual assistance applications, totaling $23.5 million. Individual Assistance is available for these designated counties in Texas: Aransas, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Kleberg, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Refugio, Sabine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Victoria, Waller, Wharton.
There are all kinds of assistance available for people that are affected by a natural disaster. Check the website: https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ and see if your area is covered.
Hurricane Harvey - Immediate Mortgage Assistance
All the major mortgage players and servicers have detailed policies and procedures to help homeowners deal with mortgage payments during and after a major disaster.
Forbearance - Pushing off mortgage payments: If you are having trouble making your mortgage payment due to technical problems, or the need to deal with more pressing matters, then it is possible to receive a period where your mortgage payments are pushed off. It is very important to speak to your servicer and verify that your loan is in an area that qualifies for a forbearance. Freddie Mac suggest that once out of harm's way,
homeowners should contact their servicers -- the company to which they send their monthly mortgage payments. They may be eligible for forbearance on mortgage payments for up to one year if their mortgage is owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac.
If forbearance is granted, then lenders should suspend credit reporting.
In Danger of Foreclosure: Servicers have been informed that they should discontinue Legal Action on a foreclosure. There is a 90-day moratorium for eligible loans against beginning or continuing legal action, until the lender reviews condition of property, and borrower’s employment and income status. It is important to keep in touch with your servicer.
Insurance claims: Servicers must act to protect the borrower’s interest when a hazard or flood insurance loss occurs. Check your insurance policy, speak to your insurance agent, insurance company, or mortgage servicer.
Waiver of late fees: If payments are caused by the hardship due to a natural disaster, then many mortgage servicers waive late fees and late payments are not reported to the Credit Reporting Agencies.
Taking out a New Mortgage: If you are in the process of taking out a new mortgage (or refinancing your old one) then you will most likely need a new appraisal or property inspection. In addition, lenders who are originating loans that will be sold to Fannie Mae are reminded that they must verify the condition of the property if it is in the area affected by the hurricane. Additional lender guidelines for Freddie Mac loans can be found here. In addition, Freddie Mac will be working with servicers to ensure that no property inspection costs resulting directly from Hurricane Harvey will be passed on to the affected borrowers. Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac's guidelines do not apply to all loans.
However, no matter what type of mortgage loan that you have, make sure that you work closely with your servicer. Demand to know what your rights are and that you are treated fairly. Make special care to get clear instructions regarding processing your insurance claims.
Hurricane Harvey: Avoid Scams
Natural disasters create chaos and havoc. We can be thankful for the brave people who serve their community and put their lives in danger to help serve and protect the public. In addition, there are many community based programs offering shelter, food, and other necessities.
However, along with the good, there are some bad apples in the barrel. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
One thing we’ve learned at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is that scams often follow the news –
They warn about robocalls and scams regarding flood insurance. They recommend to only talk to your insurance agent, or insurance company. If you suspect fraud, then call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-866-720-5721.
The BBB warns about giving charity to fraudsters will use a disaster, such as Hurricane Harvey, "to trick people into clicking on links on Facebook, Twitter and phishing emails to solicit charitable giving for flood victims." Don’t click on links that you are not familiar with.
Don’t let the fraudsters stop you from doing a good deed. Do research about the charities and find a reputable one to help communities in need.