Hurricane season is squarely underway with Dorian making landfall in the Carolinas. You may have seen all the news coverage, photos, and videos. But if you live in a hurricane’s path, the experience is nothing short of harrowing.
If you are a homeowner during hurricane season, you’ll experience a whole different set of worries and concerns. Here’s some helpful information and resources as we enter this unpredictable time of year.
What to do first if your home is impacted by a hurricane
Register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency
You can register with FEMA online, in person at a disaster recovery center, or by calling 800-621-3362. FEMA also offers help and information for dealing with natural disasters. Visit FEMA.gov for more information.
Find out if your homeowner’s insurance coverage includes flood insurance
Homes financed with a federally insured mortgage in a high-risk flood area, also called a special flood hazard area (SFHA), are required to buy flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), or as a separate policy through a private insurer. SFHAs are areas that have a minimum 1% chance of flooding in any given year.
Print out your most recent home insurance policies for easy reference. You can also contact your homeowner’s insurance (HOI) provider, if needed. If your policy doesn’t have flood insurance, read on to learn how to apply for a disaster relief loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Take photos of all damage
Make sure to be thorough and to capture all angles of the damage. Keep in mind that if you have a mortgage, your lender must sign-off on claims above a certain dollar amount. This is because mortgage investors such as Fannie Mae need to ensure your home is restored to a condition comparable to, or better than, when you bought it.
What not to do after a natural disaster
Don’t stop making mortgage payments without talking to your lender
If your home is not livable or your job was affected by a natural disaster and you can’t make mortgage payments, the worst thing you can do is to ignore the bills without talking to your lender.
Don’t assume your lender knows the condition of your home or employment status
If you stop making payments without making a plan with your lender, it will affect your credit, you’ll rack up late fees, and it can put your house on the foreclosure track.
For anyone in the process of getting a mortgage from Better.com
We work hard to ensure that everything for your home loan remains on track. If you’re affected by a hurricane or natural disaster and your rate lock needs an extension, we will extend it at no cost to you to help minimize disruption until after the storm passes. Contact your Mortgage Expert for more information.
Resources you can turn to for assistance
If you are having trouble paying your mortgage
Reach out to your lender as soon as you can to discuss the situation and see what can be done. Many lenders including us at Better.com are able to enlist a temporary mortgage payment hold. That said, if you are able to make your payments as usual, it’s highly recommended you do so.
For emergency response centers in your area
Check FEMA’s website. They can provide information on disaster-related assistance and can often help people find grants to rebuild their homes.
For temporary shelter and medical aid
Your local Red Cross chapter can help with basic needs, such as evacuation shelters, water, food, first aid, and other medical care.
For disaster recovery loans
The Small Business Administration (SBA) can help homeowners, renters, and private nonprofits with recovery related to property, equipment, machinery, and business assets including inventory.
If Freddie Mac holds your mortgage
Visit this link for more information.
If Fannie Mae holds your mortgage
Visit this link for more information.
If your home is FHA-insured
Call the National Servicing Center at 877-622-8525.
For VA home loans
Call 877-827-3702 to speak with a loan technician.
We hope these tips are helpful. Please share with anyone you know who may benefit from having these links handy. It can be a long season, and the best preparation starts with being informed and ready.