Once your most urgent needs are addressed
Authored By: CFPB
When a catastrophe like a hurricane, tornado or wild fire happens, your world can be turned upside down. During these tough times, it may be difficult to know who to trust and where to look for guidance and assistance, as well as what financial steps to take as you begin recovering.
These are a few organizations that can help immediately after a natural disaster:
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website will help you find up–to- date resources and information.
- The Red Cross can help you find aid and shelters. Local organizations will establish shelters and provide vouchers for meals, clothing and a limited amount of personal goods.
- The Disaster Assistance Improvement Program (DAIP) can provide disaster survivors with information, support, services, and a way to access and apply for disaster assistance.
- The National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center is a centralized nation resource providing legal resources to those who have been directly affected by a disaster.
Once your most urgent needs are addressed
Start thinking about your financial obligations once you have addressed your most urgent needs, especially if you have experienced damage to your home or property. We have five steps you can take to help you secure your home and finances:
1. Contact your insurance company. If the storm damaged your home, car, or property and you have insurance, you can start the claims process by calling your insurance company. If you plan to claim damages related to flooding or storm damage, you should verify that you have the right kind of coverage. If you don’t have a copy of your insurance policy, you can ask for one. Ask for an electronic copy of your policy—receiving physical mail may be difficult following the flood. That will help you verify your coverage. If possible, take photos and videos of your damaged property. Documenting damage will help you with your insurance claim.
2. Register for assistance. Registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov , is the quickest way to register for FEMA assistance. If you are unable to access the internet, you can also call at 1-800-621-3362.
3. Contact your mortgage servicer. Talk to your mortgage lender right away and tell them about your situation. Damage to your home does not eliminate your responsibility to pay your mortgage, however your lender may be willing to work with you given the circumstances. If you don’t have your lender’s contact information, your monthly mortgage statement, or coupon book with you, you can search the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) or call toll-free at (888) 679-6377 to find the company that services your mortgage.
4. Contact your credit card companies and other lenders. If your income is interrupted or your expenses go up, and you don’t think you will be able to pay your credit cards or other loans, be sure to contact your lenders as soon as possible. Ask your creditor to work with you. Explain your situation and when you think you might be able to resume normal payments. It is important to make those calls before your next payments are due.
5. Contact your utility companies. If your home is damaged to the point you can’t live in it, ask the utility companies to suspend your service. This could help free up money in your budget for other expenses.
After contacting the companies related to your most urgent financial needs, take a look at your bills and set priorities—including your mortgage, rent, and insurance payments. Given the countless people experiencing distress from the flooding, contacting your creditors may be difficult. Be persistent and make every effort to reach them.
- Forbearance. Depending upon the type of loan you have, your lender may be willing to temporarily reduce or suspend your payments; this is referred to as forbearance. To learn more, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) . If you have student loans, ask your servicer if you qualify for a temporary forbearance. Federal student loan borrowers may be eligible for up to three months of forbearance .
- Insurance settlement. This quick guide will provide you with some of the basics about how an insurance settlement works. Typically, your mortgage servicer will release a portion of the settlement money before work begins so you can hire a contractor. When the work is halfway finished, the servicer will typically release more money. The rest will be released once the job is finished and the home passes inspection.
- How to choose a contractor. Read our tips to consider when evaluating contractors to help fix or rebuild your home after a disaster.